Defence Minister walks tightrope between cost of living crisis and security needs

Defence Minister walks tightrope between cost of living crisis and security needs
Defence Minister Ludovine Dedonder. Credit: Belga

Belgium's Defence spending is due to be discussed in a Council of Ministers meeting on Monday, as the Federal Government walks a tightrope between increasing defence capabilities to meet NATO's spending targets, and also tackling records levels of inflation and the cost of living crisis.

Speaking to RTBF on Monday, Federal Defence Minister Ludivine Dedonder (PS) stated that "increasing the defence budget is not inappropriate when there is a war on the European continent, but it must not be done at the expense of increasing purchasing power, social security or public services."

The debate comes after Prime Minister Alexander De Croo's proposal to increase the defence budget to 2% of GDP by 2035, as NATO members are encouraged to do so. The Socialist Parties have come out strongly in favour of measures for alleviating the pressures of the cost of living crisis off its citizens, while also supporting the Federal Government's increase in defence spending.

This has left the party balancing two of its key policy areas, given that Dedonder, who heads the Federal Defence Ministry, is a Socialist. For her, more money could go to the defence budget, "but I do not accept that we should spend a lot of money at random just to be able to communicate about a certain percentage."

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"We must take the time to reflect, to analyse the evolution of the geopolitical situation, of the conflict in particular, of the shortcomings of capabilities identified by the European Union, of NATO's new strategic concept, but this is not to close the door out of dogmatism," she said.

Defence at a European level

Dedonder also said that a discussion is needed at a European level so that new defence expenses will not be counted in the public deficit.

"This is not at all absurd, it is what was done after the attacks for defence spending against terrorism."

Last week, De Croo proposed to increase defence spending to meet NATO requirements following the changed security landscape of Europe after Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Meanwhile, the Green Parties are finding themselves increasingly isolated on opposing the defence spending increase.

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