Italy is ready to contribute to international military operations even though it’s facing budget cuts, President Giorgio Napolitano’s office said.
The Superior Council of Defense “agreed on the need for the Italian army to stand ready to provide fresh contributions to any military mission by the international community, should that be required,” even amid “stricter budget constraints,” the president’s office said in an e-mailed statement after the body met today in Rome.
Italy’s forces are currently taking part in 24 missions in places including Afghanistan, Lebanon and Kosovo as part of NATO, United Nations or European Union operations, according to the Defense Ministry’s website. Prime Minister Mario Monti’s government approved a bill in April to cut defense spending and the size of the military to shore up the public finances. The aim is to reduce the number of military personnel to 150,000 and civil staff to 20,000 by 2024.
Monti, Finance Minister Vittorio Grilli, Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi and Defense Minister Giampaolo di Paola were among those attending today’s meeting of the Superior Council, which is headed by the president and includes the heads of the armed forces, according to the statement.
Italy can only afford to spend the equivalent of 0.84 percent of gross domestic product on defense, about half the European Union average of 1.61 percent and down from 1.01 percent in 2004, the government said in April. The bill overhauling the armed forces has still to be approved by Parliament.
Di Paola called on lawmakers to pass the legislation before the general elections next year, according to today’s statement.
To contact the reporter on this story: Lorenzo Totaro in Rome at firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Craig Stirling at email@example.com