Belgium's defence budget should increase to 2% by 2035, says De Croo

Belgium's defence budget should increase to 2% by 2035, says De Croo
Credit: NATO

The Belgian Army may get an upgrade after Prime Minister Alexander De Croo proposed that Belgium spend 2% of GDP on the military to meet standardised NATO requirements, reports La Libre.

Currently, Belgium spends 1.12% of GDP and with the current trajectory, it will reach 1.54% by 2030, based on Minister of Defence Ludovine Dedonder's plans. The defence budget would rise from 4.4 billion in 2022 to 6.9 billion in 2030.

But De Croo wanted to review this trajectory during a cabinet meeting on Friday. "We are ready to do more in the field of defence, but on three conditions," he said, outlining that there needs to be more integration between the military capabilities of the partners, that the investments offer more returns to European industry and more societal gains.

Gaining momentum

Discussions are gaining momentum in the run-up to a NATO summit in Madrid at the end of June. De Croo's liberal party Open VLD and sister party Mouvement Reformateur (MR) have hinted that they support increased defence spending on Friday.

While Belgium's Green Parties opposed the move, the war in Ukraine has prompted several countries in the military alliance to increase their defence budgets and move closer to NATO. In the Nordics, Denmark recently pledged to reach the goal by 2030, while Sweden and Finland formally announced their bid to become members.

Yet Belgium has a long way to go as it the third least spending member in the alliance, according to NATO figures. Only Spain and Luxembourg spend less, using 1.02% and 0.57% of GDP respectively.

"The war in Ukraine forces us to do more," said David Clarinval, Deputy Prime Minister in Mouvement Réformateur (MR). "Belgium can no longer be the worst partner in the partner in the Alliance. It is important to move towards 2% by 2030.  We hear the reluctance of the left-wing parties, but the discussion is ongoing," Clarinval added.

Other needs

The Greens have stated that they prefer the budget to be centred on other needs of the country.

"If we have billions more to invest, it is in the energy transition and in the social sector that we should put them," said the Cabinet of Petra De Sutter, Deputy Prime Minister of Belgium and member of Groen, the Flemish green party.

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Francophone green and Deputy Prime Minister Georges Gilkinet agreed with her assessment. "We need to become independent of gas, oil and Putin's uranium. We also made the conscious choice to help Ukraine by sending arms. I think that's enough," said Gilkinet.

NATO members have been reluctant to increase their defence spending to 2% of GDP. While former-US President Barack Obama's pleas fell on deaf ears, President Trump's threats to deny aid to NATO members if they refused to meet NATO targets, were met with astonishment.

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