Luxembourg and Belgium to form joint NATO battalion
Luxembourg is set to form an army battalion with Belgium which will see the two countries field ground troops in a joint unit, part of the Grand Duchy's plans to boost its defence spending for the NATO military alliance.
Defence Minister François Bausch announced the intention to set up the joint Belgian-Luxembourgish land forces battalion, a project which fits with the wider aims of NATO's defence planning, the government said on Thursday in a press statement. A decision on where the new battalion will be based has yet to be made, the statement added.
Belga news agency reports that the location for the joint battalion is Lagland, near Arlon and just across the border from Luxembourg. Camp Lagland has already served as a training camp for the Luxembourg army in the past.
The force will be focused on reconnoitering missions of "medium intensity", Belgium's ambassador to Luxembourg, Thomas Lambert, told journalists on Tuesday, which means the unit would be permitted to operate in hostile zones.
The Grand Duchy is currently one of the countries with the lowest spending per GDP per capita in the alliance, equivalent to around 0.6% of gross domestic product, which it is aiming to increase to 0.72% by 2024.
Bausch and Ludivine Dedonder, the Belgian Minister of Defence, are expected to sign a letter of intent on 7 July confirming the move, at a meeting between representatives of the two governments.
Along with Belgium, the country already jointly operates an Airbus A400M transport plane. Luxembourg has recently increased its military spending efforts on satellite communications, space, and cybersecurity and has also invested in NATO's push for mid-air refuelling capacity in Europe.
In February, Luxembourg's parliament voted in favour of laws to increase the country's military expenditure and recruitment in a bid to meet spending targets set by NATO and to be seen as a "reliable partner" within the alliance.
(Additional reporting by Douwe Miedema)