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Defence acquisition jumps ahead across Europe in 2022, but research lags

Total defence investment by EU countries, 2014–33. (Janes)

Total defence spending across the European Union (EU) in 2022 was EUR240 billion (USD260.6 billion) – a 6% increase compared to 2021 and a record high in absolute terms for the 27 countries, according to the European Defence Agency's (EDA's) new annual report Defence Data 2022: Key findings and analysis. However, that figure equalled only 1.5% of the countries' collective GDP and thus fell well short of the 2% of their GDP or EUR361 billion they should have spent on defence in 2022.

Despite the rising expenditure, “we have key capability gaps and continue to lag behind other global players in spending”, High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell said in a statement accompanying the report. “We must find extra value in our ability to co-operate and seize the opportunities to strengthen our armed forces through common planning, shared projects, and joint procurements.”

Observing that defence budgets across Europe continue to “evolve rapidly in response to Russia's war of aggression against Ukraine”, the 20-page report points above all to EU countries' rising investment in defence equipment and systems.

Of their total defence spending, for example, the 27 member states allocated 24.2%, or EUR58 billion, to investment – 5.9% higher than in 2021. This easily surpassed the countries' common benchmark for investment of 20% of defence spending and was the fourth straight year since 2019 that benchmark was collectively exceeded. Individually, 20 EU countries reached or surpassed the investment benchmark, while the remaining seven – Austria, Czech Republic, Finland, Hungary, Romania, Netherlands, and Portugal – fell below it.

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