Luxembourg one of EU's defence laggards, data show
Luxembourg spent a decade as one of the EU's laggards in providing for mutual defence and trailed only Ireland in 2019 for the lowest spending compared to its economic strength, data released on Friday showed.
The Grand Duchy spent an amount only 0.4% the size of its economy on defence in 2019 – just one-third of the EU average, the bloc's Luxembourg-based statistics agency Eurostat said. That spending commitment was slightly lower than the Grand Duchy spent in 2010 despite a decade that included wars in the Middle East and Russia's invasion and annexation of Ukraine's Crimea region in 2014, Eurostat data showed.
Under a 2014 agreement, Luxembourg and all other NATO members pledged to increase their defence spending to 2% of GDP. The Grand Duchy targeted a goal of 0.6% by last year and 0.72% by 2024.
EU members Sweden, Austria, Cyprus, Finland, Malta and Ireland are not part of the NATO alliance. Yet all spent more than Luxembourg on defence in relation to their economic capacity except for Ireland, which devoted just 0.2% of its GDP to military efforts in 2019, Eurostat said.
Despite the 2014 agreement, EU countries have not increased their defence expenditures in step with their expanding economies, leaving military spending levels consistent at 1.2% of GDP, the statistics agency reported. EU countries together spent €168.5 billion on defence in 2019, Eurostat said.
In comparison, Estonia, which borders a menacing Russia, spent 2.1% of its GDP on defence in 2019 and Greece, locked in decades-long hostility with neighbouring Turkey, spent 2%, the statistics agency found.
Luxembourg has shown a willingness in the past few years to reverse its scant support for Europe's collective protection. Lawmakers approved legislation in February to add 164 soldiers and support personnel to the army and to cover the bulk of the €200 million cost of upgrading NATO's Support and Procurement Agency in Capellen, which is the alliance's main procurement and logistics hub. The Grand Duchy also is funding a virtual test environment for digital warfare located at the procurement agency.
Luxembourg's army, together with Belgium's military, bought and operates an A400M transport plane that deployed to Pakistan last week to help the emergency allied evacuation from Afghanistan. The Grand Duchy's government said in June it also plans to set up a joint Belgian-Luxembourgish ground forces battalion.
Luxembourg sent troops this year to Mali to train local soldiers and operate drones to counteract Islamist uprisings in the African country's north and to Estonia to train that country's army in drone techniques.
But other planned defence commitments have not been realised. A new Luxembourg military hospital that would treat patients during major health crises or terrorist attacks was first proposed in 2016, but Defence Minister François Bausch said in February it will not be available for another seven years if it gets built at all.