EU leaders support the joint purchase of ammunition for Ukraine
BRUSSELS — European Union leaders on Thursday backed a plan to send 1 million artillery rounds to Ukraine over the next 12 months to help the country fight Russian invasion forces.
The EU’s foreign and defense ministers approved the plan for the accelerated procurement procedure at the beginning of the week, and the leaders of the bloc’s 27 member states gave it their political blessing at the summit in Brussels on Thursday.
“Taking into account the security and defense interests of all member states, the European Council welcomes the agreement … on the delivery of ground-to-ground and artillery ammunition to Ukraine, and also missiles upon request,” read the conclusions of the meeting regarding Ukraine.
Earlier, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky thanked the leaders for the initiative during a video call.
Zelensky, who spoke of a moving train as he toured the front lines, said: “Not only months and weeks, but also days are important. The faster we act together, the more lives we save.” according to the video published on the presidential website.
“But, dear colleagues, don’t you feel that we have less new success than another delay in our joint efforts? Unfortunately, this is the case. And the Kremlin sees this. It takes us further from achieving peace,” he said.
Zelensky also asked the leaders to deliver modern aircraft and long-range missiles to help Ukraine’s resistance.
With Ukraine facing a shortage of ammunition after more than a year of fighting, Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas last month floated the idea of the EU developing a joint procurement plan for the purchase of vaccines, similar to the one developed during the coronavirus epidemic.
“It’s critical that we send ammunition to Ukraine quickly, because that could make a difference in this war,” Kallas said as he arrived at the summit.
According to the plan, the European Defense Agency – in parallel with the deliveries – aggregates the stock supply requests of the member states and conducts an accelerated procedure for direct negotiations with the European industrial ammunition suppliers.
According to various estimates, Ukraine fires 6,000 to 7,000 artillery shells per day, which is a third of Russia’s total.
“The EU supports Ukraine in its relentless pursuit of freedom,” said Charles Michel, President of the European Council. “We stand by Ukraine as long as it takes.”
EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said this week that he had received approval to set aside one billion euros ($1.1 billion) to encourage member states to provide artillery shells from their existing stocks and any pending orders. Another €1 billion would be used to speed up new orders and encourage countries to buy together through the European Defense Agency or in groups of at least three nations.
Citing its commitment to peace, Hungary stated that it would not participate in providing ammunition to Ukraine, but said that it would not prevent other member states from doing so by blocking the agreement.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said last month that the EU was partly responsible for prolonging the war in Ukraine by sanctioning Russia and providing Ukraine with money and weapons instead of seeking peace with Moscow.
Bulgaria’s president, Rumen Radev, also ruled out the delivery of the projectiles as long as an interim government is in charge of the country.
“This is our sovereign decision,” he said. “Bulgaria will support European diplomatic efforts to restore peace.”
The leaders also discussed the possibility of supplementing the European Peace Program with an additional 3.5 billion euros, which is used to reimburse the costs of member countries that provide Ukraine with weapons, ammunition and military support.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres joined EU leaders for lunch on Thursday. Guterres described a grim global situation, with many parts of the world facing a “perfect storm”.
“More hunger, more poverty, less education, less health services,” he said. “And it is clear that our international financial system is not equipped to deal with such a huge challenge.”
EU leaders discussed the fight against climate change, the bloc’s competitiveness and responses to the US$369 billion inflation reduction law, as well as migration. Economic and financial issues are the focus of Friday’s discussions.
Veselin Toshkov contributed to this story in Sofia, Bulgaria.
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