On Thursday, at the inauguration ceremony of the NATO Force Integration Unit in Vilnius, President Dalia Grybauskaitė stated that Lithuania could start spending 2 percent of GDP on defence not in 2020, as planned, but as soon as in 2018.
© KAM

Gabrielius Landsbergis, chairman of the Homeland Union - Lithuanian Christian Democrats (TS-LKD), the conservative party in the opposition, has welcomed the proposal.

"We said in May, during our convention, that the Government and Parliament have to continue increasing defence spending so that it reaches 2 percent of GDP before the end of 2018, because geopolitical threats have not subsided. We are pleased that the president supports our position. We will encourage other parliamentary parties to follow this path," Landsbergis' statement sent to news agency ELTA read.

Meanwhile, Chairman of the Liberal Movement, Eligijus Masiulis, offered to stick to the existing agreement based on which defence funding is expected to reach 2 percent of GDP in 2020. Masiulis says if the goal is to be achieved sooner, then a new deal between parties and clear financing sources are needed.

"I am in favour of following the deal signed by parties. It stipulates that 2 percent would be reached in 2020. Of course, we may set more ambitious objectives and strive for those 2 percent sooner, but then representatives of parties would have to meet," Masiulis told news agency ELTA.

According to the head of the Liberal Movement, Lithuania's economic growth is not going to be as fast as predicted last year, thus the possibility to allocate 2 percent of GDP for defence already in 2018 seems vague.

"Another thing, in what areas would funding be reduced to achieve those 2 percent in 2018? Although national defence is Lithuania's priority number one at the moment, but there are other priorities alongside it," Masiulis said.

Valentinas Mazuronis, Chairman of the Labour Party, had a similar opinion. The head of one of coalition parties said he would welcome the president's proposal if appropriations for other areas would not be cut severely.

Mazuronis stated that the minister of finance and other experts should first of all evaluate Lithuania's ability to allocate 2 percent of GDP for defence two years earlier than planned.

"I do not think this should be done by drastically reducing funding in other areas. If this can be achieved as a result of greater (economic - ELTA) growth and budget collections, then okay - but not at any cost," Mazuronis told ELTA on the phone.

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