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EDA countries hit record high, post-2007 financial crisis, in defence spending

Total defence expenditure for nearly all EU countries in 2019 was the highest level in more than a dozen years, according to the European Defence Agency (EDA), which released the new figures on 28 January. National capitals’ approach to joint projects was mixed, however, with collaborative cross-border procurement falling steeply and collaborative defence research and development (R&D) efforts rising only moderately compared with previous years.

Collective defence spending in 2019 for the EDA’s 26 member states (all EU countries except Denmark) rose to EUR186 billion (USD225 billion): 5% more than in 2018 and the highest level since 2006, when the agency first began collecting the annual data from its constituent defence ministries.

The new record “is a positive development and clear response to Member States’ threat perception”, EDA Chief Executive Jiří Šedivý said in a statement accompanying the news. “Despite this progression, defence budgets remain vulnerable, with the economic impact of Covid-19 yet to be felt,” he added.

Of the EDA countries, 23 raised defence expenditure compared with 2018, including four by more than EUR1 billion each. However, three decreased their spending in 2019: the Czech Republic, Greece, and Italy.

The EUR186 billion in defence spending in 2019 represented 2.9% of total government expenditure for the year, said the EDA. Collectively, its 26 members spent EUR41.4 billion on defence investment – defined as both equipment procurement and R&D – for an increase of 19% compared with 2018. Of this total, just over 83% was spent on new equipment, with the balance of 16.9% devoted to R&D.

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