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16th May 2021

Cash-strapped Greece remains top defence spender

Cash-strapped Greece remains one of the biggest spenders on military defence in the EU, relative to its GDP.

While austerity is pushing others to reduce military expenditures, Greece still comes out among the top despite large cuts.

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  • Greek military expenditure as a share of GDP, fell from 3.3% in 2009 to 2.2% in 2014 (Photo: Nikita Avvakumov)

Last year, it spent over 2 percent of its GDP on defence, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (Sipri).

Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, and Spain, by comparison, only managed around 1 percent.

The 2 percent of GDP is a target set by Nato at a summit in Wales last year in response to the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.

Among the EU-based Nato allies, only Greece, Estonia, and the UK have met the pledge.

Sam Perlo-Freeman, director at Sipri, told this website on Monday (13 April) that the Greek military budget belies historical tensions.

Greece’s long-term conflict with Turkey over Cyprus and other maritime territorial disputes in the Aegean spurred the country to increase its overall defence budget.

The disputes have in the past almost taken the two countries to war.

The Greek defence budget peaked in 2009 at 3.3 percent of GDP, or around $11.5 billion expressed in constant 2011 prices and exchange rates.

It dropped by 52 percent in real terms to $5.6 billion last year, or to 2.2 percent of GDP.

“The share of GDP has not fallen as much as the dollar amount, as Greece's GDP has also fallen heavily - so 2 percent of GDP is less money now than it was before the crisis,” the Sipri expert explained.

It means Greece met the Nato target mostly because they were previously so far above it, Perlo-Freeman added.

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