The EU approves Borrell’s plan to send one million artillery shells to Ukraine

Josep Borrell EU

The Foreign and Defense ministers of the Twenty-seven have given the green light on Monday to the plan designed by Josep Borrell that aims to supply Ukraine with up to one million artillery shells within a year. To achieve this, the EU will mobilize an additional 2,000 million euros from its budget, specifically from the European Fund for Peace.

The objective of this initiative is to help the government of Volodímir Zelensky to resist a possible spring offensive by the Kremlin and to reconquer the territories occupied by Russian troops. Borrell maintains that the next few weeks will be decisive for the outcome of the war. At the same time, EU leaders want to send a strong signal to the industry to produce more ammunition.

“A historic decision”, wrote the High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy on his Twitter account. ” There are still many details to be resolved, but for me, the most important thing is to conclude the negotiations. This shows one thing: when there is a will to do something, a way is found,” explained  Hanno Pevkur,  Estonian Defense Minister, the country from which the idea came.

Secondly, Borrell wants to launch a massive program for the joint purchase of 155-caliber artillery ammunition, adding Ukraine’s war needs and the restocking of member states. A program that will also have European funding of 1,000 million euros. His plan contemplates two options: either make the purchase centrally through the European Defense Agency (EDA), or through coalitions of at least three countries.    

A total of 18 countries (including Spain) have announced that they are joining the European Defense Agency (EDA) project. These are Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Sweden and Norway. The initiative is open to any other Member State that wishes to join in the future.

The twist of Germany

The head of Spanish diplomacy, José Manuel Albares, has said that our country does not appear on the initial list of the AED because the Ministry of Defense still has to complete a series of procedures, but it will be added in the coming days. “Spain is going to be there and I have made it clear today at the meeting, there are some administrative formalities left”, he explained.

“As always, we prefer to reinforce everything that is European, despite the fact that Spain has a defense industry with high added value”, emphasizes Albares. The European Defense Agency has identified 15 companies from 11 Member States that can manufacture the 155 caliber howitzers, including two Spanish ones:  Expal and the Granada Ammunition Factory.

To speed up the deadlines, the AED will resort to a negotiated procedure without bidding. The goal is for the first orders to be placed by the end of May, although those responsible for the Agency admit that it is a “very ambitious” calendar. The average delivery time is one year, but Borrell is confident that the joint purchase will reduce times and also the price. In fact, the ministers have set a deadline of December 30, 2023.

For its part, Germany (which had initially resisted participating in centralized purchasing) has changed its position and has joined the EDA project. In addition, the Government of Berlin will lead a coalition of countries to negotiate with the German arms industry, in which the Netherlands and Denmark could also participate, according to their Defense Minister Boris Pistorius.

“By purchasing together through the framework of the European Defense Agency and mobilizing financial support from the European Peace Fund, we will supply Ukraine with more and faster. We are again breaking a taboo and unlocking the potential of EU cooperation in joint contracting”, Borrell celebrated.

The third pillar of Borrell’s plan consists of expanding the production capacity of the European arms industry, using community funds with a model similar to advance purchase contracts with the Covid-19 vaccine. The head of community diplomacy also wants to mobilize the  European Investment Bank. There is no concrete decision on this pillar, beyond asking the Ursula von der Leyen Commission to present proposals as soon as possible.