Estonian defmin: EU must raise defense spending, slow pace a hindrance

Minister of Defense Hanno Pevkur (Reform) at a meeting with Spanish Minister of Defense Margarita Robles. August 29, 2023.
Minister of Defense Hanno Pevkur (Reform) at a meeting with Spanish Minister of Defense Margarita Robles. August 29, 2023. Source: Ministry of Defense/Flickr

The slow pace of increasing defense spending and investment is a hindrance both to Ukraine support and to improving EU member states' own defense capabilities, Minister of Defense Hanno Pevkur (Reform) said at an informal meeting of EU defense ministers this week, calling on member states to boost this spending quickly.

Pevkur was in Toledo, Spain for the two-day informal defense ministers' meeting on Tuesday and Wednesday, where discussions centered on continuing to support Ukraine in Russia's war of aggression as well as the defense challenges facing Europe, the Ministry of Defense said in a press release.

"The slow pace of increasing defense spending and investment in Europe is a hindrance both to supporting Ukraine as well as to raising our own countries' defense capability," he said. "The lives of Ukrainians are at stake, but so is Europe's own ability to defend itself."

The Estonian minister highlighted that the EU has an annual GDP of roughly €16 trillion. "However, from the European Peace Facility (EPF) we have provided support in the sum of €4.6 billion — a mere 0.03 percent of the EU's GDP," he continued. "This shows that we have the joint capacity to both support Ukraine through its victory and to ensure the security of our citizens."

This spring, EU member states jointly agreed to send 1 million rounds of artillery ammunition to Ukraine by March 2024, Pevkur recalled.

"Six months are left, however, it is clear now already that all EU member states have to contribute more to reach that goal," he acknowledged. "In addition to sending existing stocks and manufacturing new ones, we also have to quickly consider alternatives to reaching the objective, including refurbishing expiring rounds and procurements from third countries."

Minister of Defense Hanno Pevkur (Reform) attended a two-day informal meeting of EU ministers of defense in Toledo, Spain on Tuesday and Wednesday. August 29-30, 2023. Source: Ministry of Defense/Flickr

During their visit to Spain, the EU defense ministers paid a visit to the EU Satellite Center SatCen), located near Madrid, where they were provided with an overview of the center's achievements as well as the challenges stemming from Russia's ongoing war.

"SatCen is an important cooperation partner for Estonia that supports our early warning system," Pevkur explained. "Russia's war in Ukraine has clearly illustrated the importance of military geography and satellite intelligence, therefore, we have to continue its further development."

The Estonian minister also met bilaterally with the Portuguese and Dutch ministers of defense to discuss strengthening NATO's deterrence and defense posture on the alliance's eastern flank.

On the second day of the EU ministers' meeting, the working session was also joined by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and UN Undersecretary General Jean-Pierre Lacroix. In continuing with matters from the Vilnius Summit in June, Wednesday's discussions focused on the exchange of views on the long-term impact of Russia's war of aggression on the regional and global levels.

Also on the agenda Wednesday is a discussion on the security situation in the Sahel region of Africa.


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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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