By Andrew Gray and Sabine Siebold STOCKHOLM (Reuters) -European Union countries agreed on Wednesday to speed up supplies of artillery rounds and buy more shells to help Ukraine but still have to work out how to turn these aims into reality. Under a plan drawn up by foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, EU states would […]
EU agrees to push ahead on joint arms buying to aid Ukraine
By Andrew Gray and Sabine Siebold
STOCKHOLM (Reuters) -European Union countries agreed on Wednesday to speed up supplies of artillery rounds and buy more shells to help Ukraine but still have to work out how to turn these aims into reality.
Under a plan drawn up by foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, EU states would get financial incentives worth 1 billion euros ($1.06 billion) to send more of their artillery rounds to Kyiv while another 1 billion euros would fund joint procurement of new shells.
“There has been a general agreement on this procedure but there are questions pending. Everything has to be discussed in detail,” Borrell said after a meeting of EU defence ministers in Stockholm also attended by their Ukrainian counterpart Oleksii Reznikov.
Borrell said he hoped the plan would be finalised at a meeting of EU foreign and defence ministers on March 20.
Reznikov had urged the ministers in Stockholm to support an Estonian plan for EU countries to club together to buy 1 million 155-millimetre shells this year at a cost of 4 billion euros to help fight Russia’s invasion and launch a counter-offensive.
Borrell’s plan is smaller in scale but would still be a landmark step for the EU as defence procurement has largely been the preserve of the bloc’s individual member governments.
EU officials say if the bloc places a large order on behalf of member governments, they will get a better price and give arms firms a strong incentive to invest in increasing capacity.
However, officials said there was still much work to be done to hammer out details such as how the funding would work and who would take the lead in sealing deals with arms firms.
Ukraine is burning through shells faster than its allies can make them, officials say, prompting a renewed search for ammunition and ways to ramp up production.
Reznikov said Ukraine wanted 90,000 to 100,000 artillery rounds per month. “We need to move forward as soon as possible,” he told reporters before the meeting.
But EU ministers and officials have been unable to say how much capacity Europe’s defence industry has to provide the shells Ukraine needs.
Dutch Defence Minister Kajsa Ollongren said she had proposed that industry leaders join the March 20 meeting.
“We are talking a lot about industry. I suggested we should also talk with industry,” she said.
Funding will also be a subject for further debate.
While Estonia said EU countries should provide fresh money for joint procurement, Borrell has proposed using cash already allocated to an EU-run fund, the European Peace Facility.
German Defence Minister Boris Pistorius said Wednesday’s discussions about joint procurement were “right and necessary” but should not distract from the fact that it would take time for industry to ramp up capacity.
“We have to face the truth. Just because we all place more orders does not mean there is more ammunition. It has to be produced before it can be delivered,” he said.
($1 = 0.9477 euros)
(Reporting by Andrew Gray and Sabine Siebold; Witing by Andrew Gray; Editing by Nick Macfie and Gareth Jones)
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