Italy getting further away from NATO 2% defence spending target, minister says

By Thomson Reuters Feb 28, 2024 | 9:21 AM

ROME (Reuters) – Italy’s military budget is set to shrink again this year, taking the country further away from a NATO target of spending at least 2% of gross domestic product (GDP) on defence by 2028, Italian Defence Minister Guido Crosetto said on Wednesday.

Defence spending has fallen steadily from 1.59% of GDP in 2020 to 1.46% in 2023, and “will probably fall” again this year, Crosetto said in a question time session at the lower house of parliament.

“This is not news that makes me happy,” he added.

Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, NATO’s European members are under pressure to boost their defence capabilities, and have come under renewed fire from U.S. Presidential candidate Donald Trump for not paying enough into the military alliance.

At a summit in 2014, NATO leaders agreed to move towards spending at least 2% of GDP on defence within a decade, but Italy’s previous government, led by Mario Draghi, postponed the objective by four years.

In November, Crosetto told parliament that even meeting the less ambitious 2028 target was “difficult”. Italy faces tight budget constraints, being the second most indebted country in the euro zone after Greece.

Crosetto on Wednesday reiterated a pledge to continue supporting Ukraine in its war against Russian aggression, after Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni last week signed a 10-year defence pact with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in Kyiv.

(Reporting by Alvise Armellini, editing by Kirsten Donovan)