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Mar 19, 2023
EU Seeks to Provide 1 Million Artillery Shells to Ukraine
(Bloomberg) -- European Union member states reached an agreement that aims to provide Ukraine with 1 million rounds of artillery ammunition over the next year.
The EU’s top envoys agreed to a plan Monday to back spending €1 billion ($1.1 billion) from its European Peace Facility for the bloc’s countries to jointly buy ammunition, according to people familiar with the matter. They also backed spending another €1 billion from the same fund to reimburse what member states send from their own existing stockpiles of both modern and Soviet-era ammunition to Ukraine.
Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas said in a post on Twitter she was “glad” the initiative was approved, adding “this helps to ramp up European defense industry and boost our security.”
Read More: Putin’s Invasion Shows World’s War Machine Needs More Ammunition
At issue is the need to supply Ukraine with more ammunition but also replenish member states’ existing stocks, as Ukrainian and Russian forces burn through tens of thousands of artillery shells each day and push ahead with offensives. Estonia tabled a proposal last month after Ukraine called for 1 million rounds of 155mm ammunition this year to aid those efforts.
While Ukraine is firing ammunition at a more efficient rate, it’s still using up shells faster than Europe can produce them. Some estimates show Ukraine using as much as eight times the 25,000 shells Europe currently produces in a month.
Asked about producing 1 million shells over the next 12 months, Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis told reporters ahead of the meeting this was “an ambition and I’m hoping that it can be delivered and it can be produced.” He added that “speed is of the essence” with Ukraine in urgent need of the shells at the front.
Under the EU plan, the joint orders will be funneled either through a procurement project led by the European Defense Agency or by individual EU nations bringing several other member states on board onto their contracts, said the people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. As much as 60% of those orders that get delivered to Ukraine could then be reimbursed by the EPF.
The EU’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said earlier that 15 member states have already joined the EDA project to procure ammunition for Ukraine.
A draft of conclusions due to be agreed by EU leaders when they meet in Brussels later this week also included the target to provide Ukraine with 1 million rounds of shells over the next 12 months, according to a document seen by Bloomberg. The draft could still change before leaders sign off on it.
Beyond the political agreement this week, some questions remain open and technical work to hammer out the details of the agreement will continue after Monday, including setting the precise level of reimbursement via the EPF, according to one of the people familiar with the matter.
Some countries had been pushing for the option to procure from companies abroad if there wasn’t enough production capacity in Europe to meet the target but that has now been ruled out, the person said. The EDA project will be allowed to buy from firms in the EU and Norway. There are some 15 manufacturers of 155mm shells in the EU spread across 11 countries.
The EU had proposed that member states aim to deliver shells from their existing stocks by the end of May and to jointly procure 155mm ammunition from European defense firms and Norway before Sept. 30, one of the people said.
Member states have also been informed that one issue the industry faces is sourcing enough gunpowder as it is only available in a small number of countries.
EU countries are also discussing options to unlock another 3.5 billion euros for the EPF, but many countries have questions about how it would be used. The EPF, which reimburses member states for their weapons deliveries to Ukraine and funds other projects, currently has a budget of around €7.7 billion, with much of it already pledged to support Kyiv.
European Council President Charles Michel is consulting leaders about topping up the fund to gauge whether that can be concluded at the summit this week, an EU official said.
--With assistance from Jorge Valero, Lyubov Pronina and Katharina Rosskopf.
(Updates with agreement, Kallas, details from first paragraph)
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