27/11/2023 |

Bad business for Spain: it increases its arms purchases by 266% in the last 10 years

  • Military spending by EU NATO countries has increased by almost 50%, while their GDP has only increased by 12% and employment by 9%
  • Investing that money dedicated to armaments in the green economy would generate almost twice as many jobs
  • This increase in weapons could further destabilise the international order and slow down the growth of the economy and employment in Europe
  • Greenpeace demands that European fiscal rules do not incentivise a spiral of military spending that is harmful to social and environmental budgets

The purchase of armaments in Spain has increased by 266% in the last ten years. This is according to the report “Arming Europe” presented today by Greenpeace, with data on military spending in Spain, Italy and Germany. According to the research, every €1 billion of military spending in Spain creates only 6,500 new jobs while equivalent investment in the environment sector and the green economy would create almost twice as many, some 12,000 jobs.

In the last decade, military spending in EU countries belonging to the Atlantic Alliance has increased by 48%, from €145 million in 2014 to a budget forecast of €215 million in 2023, a figure higher than Portugal’s annual GDP. Spurred on by the war in Ukraine, military spending in this group of countries in 2023 is expected to increase by almost 2023% compared to 2022. According to official NATO figures, the EU member countries of the Alliance already devote 1,8% of their GDP to military spending, very close to the agreed target of 2%.

In recent years, the European Union itself has joined this trend, embarking on demanding military programmes, such as the European Defence Fund of €7.900 million for research and production of new weapons in the period 2021-2027 or the European Peace Facility – as it is called – with €12 million for external military aid from the EU in the same period. An increase in military spending that contrasts with the stagnation of the EU economies. The GDP of European NATO member countries increased by 12% between 2013 and 2023 and employment by 9% but military spending increased on average four times more than GDP, reaching 46%. In particular, arms purchases increased by 168 per cent.

Despite the economic argument commonly used to justify increased military spending, the arms business is neither an engine of economic growth nor a major generator of jobs. The current global arms race, from which the EU and NATO countries are not spared, absorbs a large amount of public resources. Beyond ethical and geopolitical considerations about the effectiveness of these investments, the truth is that it produces increases in GDP and employment that are much lower than those that would be obtained by investing in education, health and environmental protection. However, in the latter sectors, a large amount of resources are diverted to be spent on expensive weapons systems. In short, even from an economic perspective, increasing military budgets is a “bad deal”.

In an economic context of financial instability, this increase in military spending has come at the expense of other items of public expenditure. Something that risks being accentuated if the European fiscal rules, currently under negotiation, grant defence spending facilities over other human security priorities. In Spain, the growth in arms spending between 2013 and 2023 (+266%) even exceeds public spending on building schools (+57%), hospitals (+65%) or water treatment plants (21%). These are worrying figures, considering that the WHO has estimated the number of deaths associated with climate change and pollution in Europe at 1,4 million in 2021.

This enormous amount of resources diverted to the purchase of armaments shows a very unbalanced balance of imports, and exhibits a much lower economic return than would be obtained if it were invested in other sectors. Thus, in Spain, for every 1,000 million euros spent on the purchase of weapons, the GDP is only 1,285 million. However, the same amount invested in environmental protection has a substantially greater multiplier effect, with an increase of €1,828 million.

For this reason, Greenpeace calls on the Spanish government to put a limit on the constant increase in military spending and to stop the current arms race, to lead the European Union in the establishment of fiscal rules that incentivise human security over military security and to strengthen funds for climate and environmental action and the welfare state.