EU to speed up deliveries of howitzer shells for Ukraine

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BRUSSELS — European Union officials and countries from the 27-nation bloc are discussing plans to dedicate an extra billion euros as well as setting up a joint procurement scheme to speed up the delivery of howitzer artillery rounds that Ukraine says are crucial to countering Russian forces.

With Ukraine facing shortages of ammunition to fight Russia, the idea of setting up a plan of action similar to the one devised during the coronavirus pandemic to buy vaccines was first brought to the table last month by Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas.

According to an EU official with direct knowledge of the project who briefed reporters Thursday, the priority now is to guarantee the swift delivery to Ukrainian armed forces of 155mm artillery rounds. The official was not authorized to speak publicly because the plan is still being finalized.

The EU has been helping Ukraine through its European Peace Facility – a fund being used to reimburse member countries that provide weapons, ammunition and military support to Ukraine.

Under the latest proposal, member countries providing ammunition immediately would be guaranteed to be repaid quickly and at high rates of reimbursement.

To fund the project, member states would need to use an additional billion euros after they already agreed in December to top up the European Peace Facility by a further 2 billion euros, with a possibility of an additional 3.5 billion.

The EU will also encourage third countries to join the fund, the official said. “We’re in discussions with the Norwegians, with potential interest from the Canadians.”

In parallel, the European Defense Agency would aggregate demands from member states to restock, and lead a fast-track procedure for direct negotiations with industrial providers of ammunition in Europe.

According to the official, a total of 12 companies in nine member states are producing 155mm ammunition. The European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, will incentivize them to ramp up production, with guarantees of long-term demand, making the project interesting for them, the official said.

According to various estimates, Ukraine is firing 6,000-7,000 artillery shells daily, around a third of Russia’s total, one year into the war.

The plan will be discussed by EU defense ministers next week before foreign and defense ministers further look at it during a meeting on March 20. Leaders could then rubberstamp it during a summit in Brussels on March 23-24.

Copyright © 2023 The Washington Times, LLC.

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