Lithuanian Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis supports lawmakers' proposal to update a defense policy agreement among political parties to include a commitment to gradually increase defence spending to 2.5 percent of GDP in 2020.
Lithuanian Soldiers
© DELFI / Mindaugas Ažušilis

"The proposal to update the agreement is very important and sends a significant message for our foreign partners that Lithuania is ready for national defense and is a serious and reliable partner in terms of collective security," he told reporters on Wednesday.

The Lithuanian parliament's Committee on National Security and Defence on Tuesday decided to initiate an update of the agreement to include a provision on a gradual increase in the defense budget to reach 2.5 percent of GDP in 2020.

The committee's chairman Vytautas Bakas, who is a member of the ruling Peasant and Green Union, told BNS that the updated document should be signed before the end of 2017.

However, Viktoras Pranckietis, the speaker of the Seimas, on Wednesday publicly criticized the proposal to boost defense spending to 2.5 percent.

"I think that the 2.5 percent (target) can only be proposed by a person who does not expect to work in the government that will have to allocate 2.5 percent (of GDP for defense)," he told the Žinių Radijas radio station.

Pranckietis noted that the ruling coalition was committed to allocating 2 percent of GDP for national defense in next year's budget, but added that this was "a minimum threshold".

Dalia Venceviciene, his advisor, later clarified that the speaker did not think that the defense budget could no reach 2.5 percent of GDP and that he "supports the position in favor of reasonable allocation of funds for defense and security".

In her words, Pranckietis underlines that three should be a general consensus among political parties, rather than a proposal from individual parliamentarians or the Committee on National Security and Defense.

In the 2014 agreement, political parties agreed to raise defense spending annually until it reaches 2 percent of GDP. The current government has pledged to achieve the 2 percent target in 2018.

This year's defense spending is planned at 1.8 percent of GDP.

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