Elections 2024: Who should I vote for if I want to see a stronger NATO?

In the run-up to the June elections, Belgium's political parties are staking out their positions on key issues. Today we look at their stance on NATO, Europe's relationship with the US and military cooperation within the EU.

Despite having NATO's headquarters in Brussels, Belgium is one of the alliance's worst contributors. While member states agreed to spend 2 per cent of their GDP on defence in 2006, Belgium has only reached 1.2 per cent. To meet NATO's target, the country will have to increase defence spending by 12 billion euros a year.

Because of the war in Ukraine, most parties agree that increasing defence spending is a must, for a stronger Europe that is less dependent on the US. But the parties disagree on how and when these investments should be made.

Belgium is already struggling with a large budget deficit, so finding billions of euros for defence is no easy task. In 2023, Belgium decided to increase its defence budget to 1.57 per cent of GDP by 2030 in order to meet NATO's target of 2 per cent by 2035. Centre-right and right-wing parties want to speed up this timetable.

2 per cent by 2029

The liberal Open VLD is the most ambitious, wanting to reach the 2 per cent target by 2029. It also wants Belgium to buy more equipment such as tanks and F-35 fighter jets. The French-speaking MR also wants to speed up defence investment and increase the size of the Belgian army from the current 24,000 soldiers to 40,000 in 2040.

Christian democrats CD&V are a little more cautious, saying that the goal should be reached "as soon as possible", by 2035 at the latest. Their French-speaking counterparts, Les Engagés, do not mention a deadline.

The right-wing N-VA says it believes in an "accelerated growth path" to reach the 2 per cent target. It also wants to seek bilateral defence agreements, such as a joint army with the Netherlands. The far-right Vlaams Belang is in favour of increasing the defence budget to 2 per cent, but does not mention any dates.

Cautious left-wing parties

Parties on the left, such as the green parties Groen and Ecolo and the socialist PS, do not want to accelerate defence investments and instead stick to the current target of 2035. The Flemish socialist party Vooruit also mentions that any defence investment Belgium makes should benefit society as a whole.

The communist PVDA is the only outlier in Belgium. It rejects a European army outright and believes that NATO - as an "offensive alliance" - is part of the problem. According to the PVDA, Europe should only be involved in defending its own territory, not in arming third countries. Instead, it wants to focus on reviving multilateral disarmament talks.



In the run-up to the elections for the federal, regional and European parliaments on 9 June, Belga English explains how the parties in Belgium want to address today’s challenges. Each day we put the spotlight on one issue.

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