Credit: Freepik

Czech Republic Spent 1.37% of GDP on Defence in 2023, Says Defence Minister Cernochova

The Czech Republic spent 1.37% of its GDP on defence last year, roughly CZK 101 billion, which was about CZK 10 billion less than expected, Defence Minister Jana Cernochova (ODS) told Czech Television last night.

NATO estimated that the Czech Republic would spend 1.5% of its GDP on defence in 2023.

This year, defence spending should be around 2% of GDP, according to Cernochova.

The Ministry of Defence moved some of last year’s money for strategic projects to this year’s budget.

“We knew from the very beginning that NATO could not recognize those funds if they were not used in that year,” Cernochova told Czech Television. Germany, which also had its own fund, is doing the same, she added. “On the other hand, the Alliance knows that those funds are deployed for the benefit of modernisation, so of course that is taken into account.” 

Originally, CZK 111.8 billion was approved for defence in last year’s budget, which would have corresponded to 1.52% of GDP. In the end, the Defence Ministry had CZK 110.3 billion available and, according to the final accounts, spent CZK 100.7 billion. About CZK 1 billion remained unspent, and CZK 7.8 billion was shifted to strategic projects for this year.

This time, the government has included state material reserves, cybersecurity and some transport projects in defence spending. “We will try to apply a few constructions in cooperation with the Transport Ministry as part of NATO defence spending, but it is still to be discussed. Of course, we will know the result from the Alliance in early 2025,” said Jan Jires, senior director of the defence policy section of the Defence Ministry.

Opposition politicians have criticised last year’s defence expenditure.

“The current five-party coalition and the Defence Ministry declared how they would approach 2%,  and instead it is de facto counterproductive,” Lubomir Metnar (ANO), chairman of the Chamber of Deputies defence committee and former defence minister, told Czech Television.

Cernochova said she expected defence spending to be around 2% of GDP this year, but she said the performance of the Czech economy would also play an important role.

NATO leaders pledged at the Wales summit in September 2014 that member states’ military budgets would be gradually increased to reach 2% of national GDP by 2024 at the latest.

Last April, the lower house of the Czech parliament approved a bill under which the Czech Republic would spend at least 2% of its GDP on defence yearly. Poland, Romania, Lithuania and Latvia have similar legislation.

According to official estimates, only five NATO member states spent a smaller share of their GDP on defence last year: Slovenia, Turkey, Spain, Belgium and Luxembourg. Of the 31 member countries, 11 spent 2% or more of their GDP on defence.

Poland (with 3.9% of GDP), the US (3.49%) and Greece (3.01%) spent the most on defence of NATO countries. In absolute terms, the United States ($860 billion), Germany, Britain and France spend the most on defence. The smallest members of the alliance with less developed economies, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Albania, spend the least.

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