Belgium’s parliament has approved a bill that will increase the Defence budget by more than 10 billion euros by 2030, enabling the national army to catch up with its European counterparts.
The military programme law was passed on Thursday evening in the Chamber with the support of the majority parties. The Nieuw-Vlaamse Alliantie (N-VA) and Vlaams Belang abstained, while the Workers Party, PVDA, voted against it.
In recent years, Belgium has invested just over 1.1 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP) on defence, whereas the NATO norm is 2.0 percent. The additional 10 billion euros will increase defence spending to 1.54% of GDP by 2030. Some of this money will be used to increase staff from around 25,000 today to 29,000 in 2030, 15 to 20% of whom will be civilian employees.
The military will also buy four new helicopters for seaborne search and rescue operations, with a price tag of 181 million euros. These aircraft should replace the NH90s, which can still serve on frigates.
Defence will also receive three lighter transport aircraft to operate alongside the relatively new A400-M planes.
Further, Belgium will purchase 19 Caesar-type artillery systems, in addition to the nine units already ordered from France, while the military’s cyber component is to be expanded by two drones and other material.
The decision to increase the budget was made before the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Prime Minister Alexander De Croo had since announced that Belgium would invest two percent of GDP on defence by 2035.