Paris: France announced plans to boost defence spending by more than 40 per cent, bringing it into line with NATO targets after complaints from US President Donald Trump that Europe is not pulling its weight.
European NATO members have come under pressure from Trump to relieve the burden on the US, which currently accounts for about 70 per cent of combined NATO defence spending.
The French government unveiled a bill that increases spending on the armed forces from 34.2 billion euros (USD 42 billion) in 2018 to 50 billion euros in 2025, taking the defence budget from 1.82 per cent of GDP currently to a NATO target of two percent.
Nuclear-armed France and Britain are the biggest military powers in the European Union. The French spending hike under new centrist President Emmanuel Macron marks a shift after years of belt-tightening in defence, which caused tension in the ranks.
Last year, the head of the armed forces resigned after a row with Macron over cuts to defence expenditure in an interim budget for 2017 agreed after his election victory in May.
Macron is France’s first commander-in-chief to have never served in the military, having come of age after compulsory military service was scrapped in 1997.
But he has repeatedly stressed his commitment to the armed forces, which are battling jihadists in West Africa and in the Middle East and are mobilised on the streets of France due to the domestic terror threat.
“Previous planning laws put the burden on the military.This time, we’re asking for the country to take the burden for the military,” a source close to Defence Minister Florence Parly said.
The defence ministry plans to raise its spending by 1.7 billion euros a year between 2019 and 2022, increasing to 3 billion a year between 2023 and 2025.