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Belgian military gets an extra budget boost of a billion euros
The unions representing military personnel have welcomed the additional €1 billion that will be invested in defence by the end of the current government legislature, they announced on Thursday. However, they expressed concern over how this budget – which was announced by defence minister Ludivine Dedonder – will be used in practice.
"It's nice to pull a billion euros out of your hat," said Yves Huwart of the General Directorate of Military Personnel (CGPM-ACMP). "But how will this money be put to good use in the short term? That's another matter."
The additional money must be used, firstly, for the replenishment of stocks, after years of scarcity, and secondly, for the strengthening of cybersecurity within the Belgian army, due to the defence department being hit recently by several major cyberattacks.
This additional investment comes on top of the €10 billion budgetary growth trajectory on which the De Croo government had previously agreed as part of its defence spending plan.
However, several unions representing military personnel are questioning the implementation of the budget in the short term. It will likely take some time before producers can supply additional ammunition and weapons to update the Belgian army's stockpiles, according to Yves Huwart, especially considering the demand caused by current conflicts such as the war in Ukraine.
The duration of staff training must also be taken into account. Depending on the weapons system that will be purchased, personnel will need to have the necessary qualifications to operate it and training takes time, Huwart added.
Despite this, the president of the Free Trade Union of the Civil Service (SLFP-VSOA), Dimitri Modaert, welcomed this boosting of the defence coffers. "With the war in Ukraine, but also the floods last summer and the health crisis, the government realises that investments in defence are extremely necessary," he observed. "Thanks to this, we can become a more attractive employer and thus compete with other sectors."