“We are working to align our standard (for the Defense budget) with that of NATO’s non-nuclear member states.” Prime Minister Alexander De Croo (Open VLD) said this on Tuesday evening in The Hague, where he attended a meeting in preparation for the NATO summit in Madrid on June 28. “The question is not how much we spend, but how we spend,” he said.
In The Hague, De Croo met NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen, Romanian President Klaus Iohannis, Portuguese Prime Minister António Costa, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki and Latvian Prime Minister Arturs Karins.
Prime Minister De Croo confirmed Belgian support for the alliance. “NATO is stronger, more united and more solid than ever (…) We show our solidarity on the ground. And solidarity is attractive, as Sweden and Finland have also applied for membership.”
De Croo also returned to a difficult debate within his coalition: increasing defense spending to 2 percent of GDP by 2035. The ministers sat together until 2 a.m. on Tuesday morning without reaching an agreement. According to the current trajectory, our country will spend 1.54 percent of GDP on defense by 2030.
MR argues in favor of achieving the 2 percent and has submitted a resolution in the House. However, the greens are reluctant. The debate is on the agenda of the Defense Committee of the House on Wednesday afternoon.
“We will continue to take our responsibilities,” De Croo told his NATO partners on Tuesday. However, the question is not how much is being spent, but how it is done. The Prime Minister identified three key challenges. Firstly, “it is time to tackle fragmentation” and to work towards better integration, as is already happening between Belgium and the Netherlands. The second challenge is to strengthen the European defense industry. Finally, investments in Defense should have a greater impact on society, in terms of cybersecurity and “better protection of our companies and our education”.