Seimas speaker expects parties to sign deal on defence funding
Amid disagreements of Lithuania's opposition on further commitment among parties to raise defence funding, Parliamentary Speaker Viktoras Pranckietis expressed hope for the deal to be signed.
In an interview to Žinių Radijas on Wednesday morning, he emphasized that the text of the agreement was still being harmonized, as the document was "rather declarative and non-binding" but needed as a signal for foreign partners.
"I believe we will reach consensus and the leaders of parties will sign it," he said.
Pranckietis stressed that the state should prioritize social matters, as social security was part of national security. Therefore, in his words, defence spending should not be increased automatically but in response to a specific need specified by the Defence Ministry.
"Our commitment is two percent, and we have reached it now (...), this year's achievement came two years early," the parliamentary speaker underlined.
"Therefore, we should speak in support of today's budget and support it, we should not talk slogans only and only speak about the need to increase it – the Defence Ministry should not calculate the need by percent of the budget but calculate the actual monetary need that exists. Then we can speak about the next year's budget – the need and the possibilities," he said.
Lithuania's ruling parties suggest amending the party agreement with the following statement: "After earmarking 2 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP) for defence in 2018, we will seek to ensure consistent growth of the financing every year." The agreement has come under criticism from opposition representatives – the conservatives want a commitment to raise funding to 2.5 percent of the GDP, while the Social Democrats want a line at 2 percent.
Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis has pledged that funding of the Armed Forces would be continued at a consistent pace in the future.
The 2018 budget earmarks 2.06 percent of the GDP for defence, which is an increase by 149.2 million euros to 873 million euros.