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Amid economic slowdown, EU military spending hits record high of 240bn euros

The European Union (EU) has hit the record-breaking 240-billion-euro spending figure – virtually 262 billion dollars – for military expenditure in 2022, amid economic slowdown across the region.

The figure was disclosed in the latest European Defense Agency (EDA) report released on Thursday. It was up by 6 percent from the previous year, marking a noticeable eight-year consecutive growth trend, according to the EDA Defense Data 2022 report.

Among the 27 EU member states, 20 increased defense spending. Six countries witnessed growth rates exceeding 10 percent.

“Our armed forces must be ready for a much more demanding era,” said EU foreign policy Chief Josep Borrell, who heads the EDA.

The whopping amount has been spent at a time when the 27 EU economies’ pace of growth has gone down to approximately 0.8 percent, according to the European Commission.

“Adjusting to these new realities first and foremost means investing more on defense,” Borrell said.

The military investment has come at a high price for the European Union. Supplying arms to Ukraine has added heavily to the inflationary pressure building up in the euro area during the post-pandemic recovery and pushed up consumer prices, especially for energy and food sector.

The EDA said in its annual report that an all-time high of 58 billion euros was allocated to defense investments in 2022, “overwhelmingly towards the procurement of new equipment.”

Amid the Russia-Ukraine war, inflation in the countries that form the European Union increased from 2.6 percent in 2021 and then to 8.4 percent in 2022.

Energy and food inflation accounted for more than two-thirds of this record-high inflation in 2022. 

Deutsche Bank CEO Christian Sewing has said Germany will once again become the “sick man of Europe” if structural issues are not addressed immediately.

EU countries have drained their stockpiles sending weaponry worth tens of billions of euros to Ukraine.

Brussels has been scrambling to get European defense companies to ramp up production to cope with the new demands due to the war.

The EU has also pushed member states to sign joint contracts and countries have begun clubbing together to order howitzer shells for Ukraine and their own forces. The EU is expected to fall short of a 12-month target of sending one million shells to Ukraine by March.

EU’s defense strategy needs to include Ukraine

EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on Thursday that Ukraine’s military needs should be taken into account as the Union determines the future strategy of Europe’s defense industry.

President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen (file photo)

“Our strategy can only be complete if it also takes into account Ukraine’s needs and Ukraine's industrial capacity,” von der Leyen said in a speech at the annual conference of the EDA.

The EU has imposed more than 10 rounds of sanctions on Russia since the beginning of the war on February 24, 2022.

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