EU plans to spend 1 billion euros on howitzer shells for Ukraine – POLITICO

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BRUSSELS – In a new military support plan for Ukraine, the European Union will propose that one billion euros be specifically dedicated to ammunition, in particular 155mm artillery shells, according to a document seen by POLITICO.

The EU helps supply arms to Ukraine through an off-budget intergovernmental kitty called the European Peace Facility, which is used to reimburse countries that export arms to Ukraine. The facility has so far disbursed €3.6 billion in military aid to Ukraine, with member countries deciding last December to increase its funding by €2 billion in 2023.

Spending needs to date have been vaguely defined, but the EU is now placing a heavy emphasis on artillery ammunition – as Ukrainian forces are locked in attritional howitzer battles with the Russians outside. east, around towns such as Bakhmut.

Top EU diplomat Josep Borrell intends to offer an ‘extraordinary support package’ of €1 billion focused on delivering ammunition, according to the EU document, drafted by the bloc’s diplomatic service, the Commission European Union and the European Defense Agency.

The document says the extraordinary €1 billion should be concentrated on ammunition – “notably 155mm” – as soon as the €2 billion top-up from the European Peace Facility is “operationalised”. That means half of this year’s complement is expected to be spent on ammunition, mostly shells, according to an EU official.

The EU document also envisages increasing European industrial production, which is striving to produce munitions at the rate demanded by war.

The proposal cites “a favorable reimbursement rate, for example up to 90%… taking into account the extreme urgency and the depletion of Member States’ stocks”.

Such a high rate could be to reassure member countries that provide significant military aid. When the reimbursement rate fell below 50% last year, it created problems for some EU countries, particularly Poland, one of the EU’s largest arms donors to Ukraine.

The funding proposal also provides a possible loophole by citing “voluntary financial contributions” for countries that will not participate, such as Austria, which is neutral; or who are reluctant to supply arms, like Hungary.

He underlines that the specific legal constraints of certain countries “will be taken into consideration”, also mentioning a possibility “to refrain constructively from lethal assistance measures”.

Teaming up

With regard to joint purchases – that is, EU countries teaming up to buy weapons – the European Defense Agency, in collaboration with member countries, would use a new system “encompassing seven categories ranging from small arms calibers up to 155 mm”.

This project is to be “launched for a period of seven years” and so far 25 EU member states plus Norway have already confirmed their interest in participating, according to the document.

Ukrainian artillery shells the position of Russian troops on the front line near Lysychansk in the Luhansk region on April 12, 2022 | Anatolii Stepanov/AFP via Getty Images

In particular, the supply of 155 mm ammunition should be expedited “through an accelerated procedure of direct negotiation” with several suppliers. This type of ammunition is particularly in demand because the Ukrainian forces use it in precise long-range artillery barrages.

Here, time is running out: “Given the urgency, the project arrangement must be signed no later than March. And the contracts should “be provisionally concluded between the end of April and the end of May”.

The document also underlines the need for more support to speed up manufacturing, as European arms factories are nearing capacity and prices are already skyrocketing.

Concrete measures could include “identifying and helping to remove production bottlenecks in the EU” as well as “facilitating the collaboration of affected companies in a joint industry effort to ensure availability and supply”.

The document will be discussed by defense ministers at an informal meeting in Stockholm next week and is then expected to be formally approved by foreign and defense ministers on March 20. The leaders are also expected to give their final blessing at a meeting on March 23-24. .

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