Helena Carreiras, officially taking up her position in the new government yesterday

Defence minister takes office with a bang

Spending on Armed Forces “a priority to ensure peace”, she insists

Helena Carreiras, Portugal’s first female minister of defence, took office yesterday with the rest of António Costa’s new look government, making instant headlines.

She told journalists that she has two priorities which she considers “very important” – the first being increasing expenditure on the Armed Forces, which she believes will be “essential to ensure peace”.

The other priority is to bring the Armed Forces “closer to society… People need to know their Armed Forces better, and the Armed Forces need to know the society they are defending”.

This second priority is a condition of the first, and “legitimises the reinforcement of investments” which will have to be wide-reaching.

If anyone was hoping for a new broom at the Defence Ministry, Helena Carreiras would appear to be it.

Quizzed as to what she thought about being the first woman to head-up the country’s defence, she said: “It’s about time…”

Jornal Notícias carried an article recently on “who is Helena Carreiras…” The answer is a 56-year-old ‘academic’ with a doctorate in Social and Political Sciences who has run the Institute of National Defence since 2019.

She believes – even more so since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine – that the EU needs to increase investment in defence, “with and not against NATO”, which has risen to the challenge of the moment in a way no-one could have predicted (certainly not President Putin). And she is a fierce defender of the integration of women within the military world (indeed she has written copiously on this subject).

Her feeling, she explained yesterday, is that the Portuguese will understand the importance of investment in the military now that war has actually arrived at the edge of Europe. 

Investment will involve attracting ‘new intake’ (young people) who need to be valued and retained (ie encouraged to stay in the Armed Forces, as opposed to leaving as so many have after a relatively short period of time).

These are “challenging times. I take up this office to serve my country with pride”, she added.

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