- By Chris Kremidas Courtney
Brussels, 17 November — Ludivine Dedonder, Belgian Minister for Defence, says that Belgium will increase its defence budget to 2% of GDP by 2035 in an effort to fill gaps in defence capabilities.
Speaking at Friends of Europe’s Peace, Security and Defence Summit held in Brussels on Thursday, the Defence Minister said Belgian spending on defence is on “a trajectory for historic new heights”.
Given the downsizing of many Western military stockpiles, amid the ongoing Russia-Ukraine War, uncertainty has been cast over Belgian military defence capabilities. Recognising that military readiness does not take place over night, Minister Dedonder cited multilateral organisations dedicated to cooperation to facilitate this shift.
“Cooperation in the framework of PESCO, European Defence Fund, European Defence Agency and NATO is one of the most important pillars,” she emphasised.
The increase in spending will be focussed on major defence shortfalls, identified by the minister as air, land, maritime, space, and cybersecurity threats.
“Belgium is sparing no effort. We, as Europeans, must work for a Europe of defence and strategic autonomy,” she said.
The view that an increased level of coordination and unity was key to address the shortfalls in European defence as a whole was shared by Antti Kaikkonen, Finnish Minister of Defence.
Joining the Peace, Security and Defence Summit via videolink from Finland, he said “Europe is not the same as it used to be. The unprovoked war started by Russia against Ukraine jeopardised the security and stability of the whole of Europe.”
“Our finest analysers of the war, the ability to counter cyberattacks, it is also important to have traditional warfighting capabilities – on several fronts at the same time,” he went on to say.
After two people were killed after an explosion in the Polish village of Przewodów on 15 November, the need for air defence capabilities has become paramount. “The signature on 30 October of the European Sky Shield Initiative, which was selected by the European Defence Fund to develop the first European defence system against hypersonic missiles. Such an approach will allow defence to become a real economic giant for society.”
During the same panel hosted by Friends of Europe, Kris Peeters, Vice-President of the European Investment Bank, summarised the investment landscape for defence.
“We are investing €95bn in Europe from the European Investment Fund,” he said.
Stressing the shift in appetite for defence investment over the past year, Peeters underlined how difficult it was to get credit for key military components.
“Before the war, it was difficult to convince the members of the board to go in that direction. Now, they say we’re not ambitious enough,” he said.
The EIB is seeking to make defence industry more climate conscious. “Green defence needs to be the new frontier for defence capability,” he went on to say, describing the EIB’s new approach to defence investment.
“We have new initiatives that we shall launch very soon. First of all, the green defence initiative to stimulate defence to go greener…We’ll try, with the support of other member state countries, to make this green defence a reality.”
“I’m convinced this is a window of opportunity for our industries, for our governments, to take a very important step forward in security and defence. And this window of opportunity, certainly for industry, will close, more or less, five year from now” the Vice-President said. “When we have no progressThe Strategic European Security Initiative seeks to invest €1bn in the sector every year.”
Noting the vulnerabilities exposed in Europe by the Russia-Ukraine, Peerters also brought the focus on the fragmented defence manufacturing industries in the EU. National interests trump a common industrial investment strategy, and while 2% of GDP represents the standard defence budgets for member states, according to NATO, ministers also need a common strategy for investment, he said.
“Stimulate industries, also in Europe, and that makes things for governments easier to invest and to realise this 2%,” said Peeters.
Jörg See, Deputy Assistant Secretary General for Defence Planning and Policy at NATO, agreed with the need for return on defence investment in a common way. “We in the defence planning process, we ask for the capabilities…What needs to be granted is the access, the interoperability,”
He noted that while NATO cannot sign manufacturing contracts, he went on to say that “What we can deliver, together with the nations, is a sustainable, strong demand signal.”
Led by Friends of Europe, this annual summit is the flagship event of our Peace, Security & Defence programme. Bringing together senior decision-makers with out-of-the-box movers and shakers, this summit allows for an in-depth and innovative discussion on today’s most pressing security and defence issues.
See Friends of Europe’s Press Releases:
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