On Monday, 20 March, EU foreign and defence ministers are anticipated to approve a €2 billion plan to raid their stocks and collectively buy Ukraine’s critical artillery shells. But, some continue to raise concerns over the exclusion of third-country suppliers.
The EU is taking a significant new step by purchasing weapons on this scale, but member states have been arguing over the specifics for the past few weeks.
The first of the three tracks of the EU’s planned plan entails allocating an additional €1 billion in shared funds to persuade EU nations to use their already limited supplies of readily dispatchable ammunition.
In the second component, the bloc would spend an additional €1 billion to buy 155-millimeter shells for Ukraine as part of a large cooperative procurement drive to encourage companies to increase production.
The debate has centered on who would negotiate the orders—the European Defence Agency (EDA) or the member states—and whether they should limit their purchases to European suppliers.
EU authorities claim that in addition to the EDA, member states will be permitted to work with consortiums made up of at least three member states (as well as Norway) to purchase ammunition for Ukraine.
On Sunday, March 10, the EU ambassadors gathered in the evening to work out the last details. But, due to reservations about preventing the opportunity to purchase from non-European suppliers, two member states, Italy and the Netherlands, were unable to provide their final consent.
The EU ambassadors are expected to meet once again on Monday morning, before the ministerial, in the hopes of having an agreed-upon legislative draft after discussions with capitals over the course of the previous night.
These approaches would make it impossible to purchase goods from non-EU enterprises, an EU diplomat said.
The same diplomat expressed concern that if this was included in the model, we would be unable to assist Ukraine as much as we might otherwise.
Nonetheless, a number of EU diplomats expressed their expectation that ministers will grant their blessing during their discussions later on Monday afternoon, marking the first action since Estonia offered the notion in February and the EU diplomatic service proposal a few weeks earlier.
WHAT AMOUNT OF STOCK ARE THERE?
There are concerns about how much the EU countries can share right away without putting themselves at risk after using up their stocks for a year.
Twelve billion euros worth of military assistance from member nations has already been pledged to Ukraine, with the European Peace Facility (EPF), a joint fund, contributing €3.6 billion of the total.
According to officials, €450 million has been spent on the provision of 350,000 shells since the invasion in February.
Nevertheless, several countries are also concerned that the continent’s remaining stockpiles of munitions are not worth €1 billion, which raises the issue of what will happen to the “money left on our hands,” according to two EU sources.
The EU27 are concerned because they don’t know how much ammo is still in their respective stores as a whole because it’s a secret.
A senior EU official said, “There is a significant issue regarding the amount of our stockpiles,” adding that numerous member states have also voiced similar concerns.
By doing this, the money would eventually be available for additional military assistance to Ukraine-related uses, such as paying member states for material supplies.
Another suggestion is to use the remaining funds for equipment other than 155mm and 152mm ammunition and to use the additional €1 billion for joint acquisition of equipment other than just 155mm ammunition.
Although the EU27 as a whole prefers to keep the emphasis on Ukraine’s immediate requirements, certain members specifically mention the prospective supply and purchase of other types of equipment.
Surface-to-air missiles have also been sought for, especially by France.
UNCERTAIN TARGET DATES AND LEAD TIMES
Getting nations to use up their stocks depends on persuading them that European industry is capable of producing more.
Officials from the EU anticipate that with its combined demand, the industry will agree to joint procurement agreements that will reprioritize the manufacturing line and shift production to Ukraine.
Brussels believes EU enterprises need to adapt to “war economy mode” after reducing back in the years following the end of the Cold War.
Industry leaders lamented the fact that more long-term contracts must yet be signed by member states before they can invest in more production lines.
According to a “evaluation by the European Commission,” it is evident that the EU has the same capacity to buy on its soil the necessary and required equipment and lead times as does the outside world.
The arrangement shall be “without prejudice to the special nature of the security and defence policy of certain Member States,” the leaders are expected to state at their summit on Thursday.