Defence minister agrees with modernising armed forces, 2% of GDP

  • Lusa
  • 20 April 2022

The minister of defence announced that the government's goal was to progressively reach 2% of GDP in defence spending.

Portugal’s minister of defence said in Santa Margarida on Tuesday the government’s goal was to progressively reach 2% of GDP in defence spending, highlighting modernisation and commitments with NATO as a priority investment.

“We will seek to modernise it is one of the great objectives of the government’s programme. It is explicit, and we will do it progressively”, said Helena Carreiras, stressing that “this is not a ‘sprint'” but “a long-distance race”.

“And I will strive to make it happen. Our Armed Forces deserve this recognition, in terms of support to the people, the service conditions of the military, and the material resources that I got the chance to see here today, a magnificent demonstration of the capabilities of our army,” she said.

The minister was speaking to journalists at Campo Militar de Santa Margarida, in Constância (Santarém), where she met with the military leadership and watched a demonstration of the capabilities of the Portuguese Army in a real fire drill involving light, medium and heavy weaponry, such as machine guns, tanks and missiles, among other equipment.

“I came to listen to the military, to hear the Portuguese Army, to learn about their expectations, the motivation of the military, the problems so that we can continue to work together. I was also able to observe their capabilities”, Helena Carreiras said.

When asked whether the funds in the 2022 budget were sufficient to modernise the Armed Forces, she told reporters, “this is a path” that the country has to take, “not just immediately, but over the next few years”. She pointed to the target of 2% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

“As I say, I believe that this is not a ‘sprint’, it is a long-distance race, and I will be here to support the work that has to be done within the framework of the government to ensure this modernisation,” she added.

She acknowledged that this was a government commitment concerning international commitments and NATO’s appeal for its members to provide 2% of GDP.

“This is the path, it is the commitment that the Prime Minister has assumed, and my predecessor has also stressed the need to strengthen and move forward in this direction,” she said, highlighting a provision included in the budget in the context of NATO.

“There is a rule in this budget that I would like to reinforce: despite being a budget for less time, there is the rule of ensuring the commitment we have in these missions to strengthen the Atlantic Alliance on the Eastern flank. This is very important because, in fact, it is what guarantees the Government’s willingness and availability to honour these same commitments, and this is included in this budget,” she stressed.

Questioned about the war in Ukraine and whether the Portuguese Armed Forces would be available to serve in defence of NATO allies’ borders, Helena Carreiras reiterated the commitments made and the availability for requests at any given time.

“We are part of military alliances, we have commitments made in the framework of the European Union and NATO, and we will honour these commitments, as we are already doing in Romania, and we are available for whatever requests come from our allies,” said the official, stating that she was “impressed” with the exercise demonstrating the capabilities of the Portuguese military that she attended.

“I was naturally impressed, and I repeat what I said to the military when they finished the demonstration, that I felt safe, that I trust these soldiers, I trust their capabilities, which they have demonstrated many times when they are on missions abroad, but also on national territory, as during the covid pandemic,” she said.

Asked about assuming the post of defence minister at a tough time in international terms, Helena Carreiras said it was a moment of defence and affirmation of values and a way of life.

“This is a very particular moment, but I feel that we are all having to face it in our multiple positions. Therefore, as a minister, what I can say is that I will do my best, within the framework of the Government, in collaboration with all the entities that participate in defence of Portugal so that we may also participate in this effort that the war in Ukraine reveals, which is the effort of defence, not only of our territory but also of our values and our way of life,” she concluded.