EU eyes joint arms buying to help Ukraine

Such an approach would be more efficient than the members placing individual orders, say European bloc officials and diplomats

By Reuters

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European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen urged the EU’s member states to come together to get more ammunition to Kyiv as soon as possible. — Reuters
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen urged the EU’s member states to come together to get more ammunition to Kyiv as soon as possible. — Reuters

Published: Sat 18 Feb 2023, 3:40 PM

The European Union is urgently exploring ways for its member countries to team up to buy munitions to help Ukraine, following warnings from Kyiv that its forces need more supplies quickly.

EU foreign ministers are expected to discuss the idea of joint procurement of 155-millimetre artillery shells — badly needed by Kyiv — at a meeting in Brussels on Monday.

EU officials and diplomats say such an approach would be more efficient than EU members placing individual orders. Larger orders would also help industry invest in extra capacity, they said.

On Saturday, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen urged the EU’s member states to come together to get more ammunition to Kyiv as soon as possible.

“It is now the time, really, to speed up the production, and to scale up the production of standardised products that Ukraine needs desperately,” von der Leyen told the Munich Security Conference, an annual gathering of policymakers.

“We could think of, for example, advanced purchase agreements that give the defence industry the possibility to invest in production line now to be faster and to increase the amount they can deliver.”

While no decisions are expected on Monday, EU diplomats and officials said there was a strong desire to move quickly.

An EU diplomat said the bloc was focusing on how to boost production, how to buy munitions jointly and how to pay for them.

“I think you’ll see a good few announcements and explanations in the coming days from the European institutions. And then there will be technical work that will be necessary,” the diplomat said.

Discussions gained impetus after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky made his case for ramped-up supplies to EU leaders in person at a summit last week, and Estonia proposed joint EU procurement of 155mm ammunition, the shells used in artillery pieces such as Howitzers.

A joint procurement effort would aim to replenish the stockpiles of Kyiv’s allies, badly depleted after a year of supplying munitions to help Ukraine fight Russia’s attack.

Nato Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said this week Ukraine was using up artillery shells faster than its allies could currently produce them.

Ukrainian forces are firing between 2,000 and 7,000 artillery shells per day, while Russia is using between 20,000 and 60,000, according to the Estonian paper, seen by Reuters.

The EU diplomat said at least some funding would probably come from the European Peace Facility, an EU fund for military aid.

Estonia also proposed using the fund, which has approved some 3.6 billion euros in support for Ukraine, but mainly by bankrolling aid provided by EU members individually.

A senior EU official said the bloc’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, and its diplomatic service considered the Estonian proposal to be “potentially a very good idea.”

Weapons-buying has largely been the preserve of national governments within the EU.

However, the bloc’s European Defence Agency (EDA) took part in a joint procurement effort in 2014 with five EU members to buy ammunition for an anti-tank weapon. It has offered to take the lead in another ammunition-buying effort.

“We want to continue to support member states to replenish their stocks, which they have been delivering to Ukraine,” said EDA Chief Executive Jiri Sedivy. “We have proposed to member states that we can act on their behalf for the procurement of different types of ammunition.”

Diplomats and officials did not put a figure on how much the EU might spend on joint procurement. The Estonian paper suggested 1 million 155 mm rounds could be bought this year for some 4 billion euros.


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