PARIS, March 28 French President Francois
Hollande said on Thursday there would be no cuts to the
country's 31-billion-euro annual defence budget next year
despite pressure to save billions of euros in public spending.
Hollande's Socialist government is eyeing its defence budget
as it struggles to pare down a large public spending bill and
meet public deficit targets, telling ministries they must save
an extra 5 billion euros in 2014.
The military has been braced for the sharpest cuts, with
some analysts predicting that France may have to sell its only
aircraft carrier to meet a possible cumulative savings target of
15-30 billion euros between 2014 and 2019.
"We will spend exactly the same amount in 2014 as in 2013,"
the Socialist president said during an interview on France 2
television, announcing an effective freeze on spending next
Hollande gave no details on spending beyond 2014. Analysts
have predicted the military budget, currently at 1.56 percent of
gross domestic product, will be cut even further below a
recommended NATO level of 2 percent of GDP.
The country's top seven defence contractors including Thales
, Safran and Nexter wrote to Hollande this
month warning him of the risk of cutting back on defence
spending amid high unemployment.
The president said he admired the military's efforts during
an operation in Mali and would ensure that France retained the
ability to ensure its security independently, which he said
included keeping its nuclear arsenal up to date.