EU member states reach deal on joint ammunition procurement for Ukraine
After weeks of talks, EU ambassadors reached on Wednesday (3 May) a preliminary agreement on a plan which aims to spend €1 billion on joint procurement of ammunition and missiles over the next year.
The deal was announced by Sweden, which holds the rotating EU Council presidency, and will officially enter into force on Friday afternoon (5 May) if no member state objects by then.
It is the second tier of a three-track plan the EU proposed in March to boost support for Ukraine, and member states’ stockpiles, including a push to ramp up ammunition production on the continent.
The agreement allows the joint purchase of 155-mm calibre artillery rounds and, if requested by Ukraine, missiles “from economic operators established in the European Union or Norway producing these ammunitions and missiles in the European Union and Norway”, says the compromise text, seen by EURACTIV.
In previous weeks, member states had been wrangling over legal terms of the second track, with France being particularly reluctant to include non-EU manufacturers in the supply chain.
The French position frustrated other EU member states, especially Eastern European and Baltic countries, Germany and the Netherlands.
They expressed scepticism that European industry had the capacity to produce enough shells quickly, without at least using components from outside the EU.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba expressed frustration last month that the deal had not yet been implemented, warning that “the cost of inaction is measured in human lives”.
EU defence industry prioritised
The compromise text now states that ammunitions and missiles “which have undergone an important stage of manufactured in the Union or Norway, which consists of the final assembly, shall also be deemed eligible”.
When it comes to supply chains, those “may include operators established or having their production outside of the Union or Norway”.
Wednesday’s deal follows a political decision taken by EU leaders in March to jointly procure 155mm ammunition and missiles for Ukraine “via the European defence industry and Norway,” co-financed with €1 billion from the European Peace Facility (EPF).
Over the past weeks, turning the political agreement into a legal text was delayed over the issue of who the contracts should be awarded to and how to define “European industry”.
In the initial agreement text, Paris had been pushing for a strict definition, according to which the ammunition would have to be purchased from EU and Norway-based companies or assembled in those countries.
Work already in progress
“We didn’t wait for the legal decision to be taken to start the work,” one EU diplomat told EURACTIV ahead of Wednesday’s decision, pointing out that member states are already in contact with the industry and are organising the submission of joint orders.
Member states may place orders as part of consortia led by one of them, or through the European Defence Agency (EDA).
A total of 18 states are working through the EDA to procure 155mm ammunition rounds, the agency announced in March.
Work and talks with the industry are ongoing and companies have started applying to the tender, an EU source close to the file told EURACTIV.
The aim is to close the deals before the end of summer, without prejudice to the definition of summer, the source added.
The political agreement struck by EU leaders in March obliges member states to have the contracts signed before the end of September.
[Edited by Alexandra Brzozowski/Zoran Radosavljevic]