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France to boost defense budget

April 29, 2015

French President Francois Hollande has announced a multi-billion euro boost to the nation's military. In the wake of the Paris terror attacks, it's a reversal of previous plans to curb defense spending.

Paratroopers patrols under the Eiffel Tower on September 23, 2014 in Paris, a day after the radical Islamic State group, which controls large areas of Iraq and Syria, called on Muslims to kill citizens of countries taking part in the US-led coalition against the jihadists, which includes France. AFP PHOTO LIONEL BONAVENTURE
Image: Lionel Bonaventure/AFP/Getty Images

The armed patrols on French streets, introduced as an emergency measure in the wake of January's attacks in Paris, will become a permanent fixture, the country's president announced Wednesday.

"France is facing big threats internally and externally," Francois Hollande told reporters following a defense cabinet meeting. "Security, protection and independence are principles that are non-negotiable."

Hollande said France would increase its defense budget by 3.8 billion euros ($4.2 billion) over four years, starting in 2016, to make sure its armed forces could tackle problems at home and maintain its missions abroad, especially in Africa and the Middle East.

His announcement comes almost four months after extremists attacked the offices of Charlie Hebdo and a Jewish supermarket in Paris in three days of violence which left 17 victims dead and put Europe on high alert.

Patrols and positions to stay

The street patrols, especially at sensitive sites like synagogues and transport hubs, would be kept, with a force of 7,000 dedicated to internal security.

Paris, which is under pressure to reduce state spending and meet deficit targets, had previously planned to reduce spending on defense. Hollande did not give details on Wednesday about how the government would raise the 3.8 billion euros, which would go towards financing army operations and purchasing new equipment.

It had been projected that some 34,000 armed forces jobs would be cut between 2014 and 2019, but according to an unnamed top French official quoted by news agencies Reuters and AP, more than half those positions - about 18,500 - would now be preserved.

According to AFP, France has about 9,000 troops in military operations abroad including in the Sahel region and the Central African Republic.

se/lw (AFP, AP, Reuters, dpa)