France increases military spending by €1.8 billion, nears NATO goal

Budget increase approved by National Assembly takes defence budget to €32.4 billion, 1.82 percent of GDP

PARIS (AFP) – French lawmakers late Tuesday approved an increase of nearly €2 billion in defense spending in 2018 – reversing cuts to the 2017 budget that triggered a major spat between President Emmanuel Macron and a top general.

The €1.8 billion in additional spending approved by the National Assembly takes the defence budget to €32.4 billion, or 1.82 percent of GDP.

A significant proportion of the new spending will go towards renewing military transporters, fighter jets and other equipment used in anti-terror operations in west Africa and the Middle East.

The increase compensates for an €850 million cut to the 2017 defence budget, which triggered a standoff in July between Macron and then armed forces chief General Pierre de Villiers.

De Villiers, a highly respected figure, complained to parliament that the army was being “screwed”, drawing a public rebuke from Macron which prompted the general to resign.

Beyond 2018, Macron plans to continue ploughing more money into the military, aiming to reach a NATO target of spending equivalent to two percent of GDP by 2025.

European NATO members have come under pressure from President Donald Trump to shoulder more defence costs to relieve the burden on the United States, which currently accounts for about 70 percent of combined NATO defence spending.

French military forces are engaged on multiple fronts, including carrying out strikes against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq and around 4,000 troops are fighting Islamist extremists in west and central Africa.

At home, 7,000 soldiers have been deployed to patrol the streets after a series of terror attacks.


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