February 01, 2013 21:43
Lithuanian premier promises eventual enlargement of defense budget to 2% of GDP
VILNIUS. Feb 1 (Interfax/BSN) - Lithuanian Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevicius promised to NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen in Vilnius that Lithuanian parties would honor the agreement on the eventual enlargement of the national defense budget to 2% of GDP.
The prime minister told a press briefing after the meeting with Rasmussen they had discussed last year's agreement of political parties and pledged to keep it.
Rasmussen urged Lithuania to observe its commitment of the defense budget enlargement after meeting with Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite on Friday.
Rasmussen said that Lithuania had admitted the need for larger defense expenditures and he asked Vilnius to keep that important promise.
He said he was aware of difficulties experienced by Lithuania and other partners but said they needed to maintain strong defense and the strong North Atlantic Alliance.
In the opinion of Rasmussen, it would be beneficial for NATO member countries to make joint defense procurements if they were unable to do that on their own.
Lithuanian Defense Minister Juozas Olekas said in an interview with the lrytas.lt portal this week that the defense budget had shrunk to 1%, which made it difficult to discuss joint projects or assistance with NATO partners.
The Lithuanian defense budget is supposed to grow to 923.9 million litai in 2013. The allocations to the Defense Ministry stood at 870.2 million litai or only 0.79% of GDP in 2012.
Eleven Lithuanian parties signed an agreement last May, shortly before the NATO Chicago summit, to undertake the annual enlargement of the defense budget to 2% of GDP at some point. The agreement did not set any deadlines.
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