BRUSSELS, March 20 (Aljazeera) - European Union (EU) ministers have agreed on a two-billion-euro ($2.14bn) plan to raid their own arsenals and jointly purchase ammunition for Ukraine.
EU defence and foreign ministers backed an initiative aimed at providing Ukraine with one million artillery shells in the next 12 months as well as replenishing EU stocks during a meeting held in Brussels on Monday.
As he chaired the meeting, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell took to Twitter to hail what he described as “a historic decision” for the 27-nation bloc and Norway.
“We are taking a key step towards delivering on our promises to provide Ukraine with more artillery ammunition,” he said, noting that 18 countries had signed up to a European Defence Agency (EDA) project to place joint orders for ammunition with the defence industry.
Borrell said that he had won approval for his proposal to provide one billion euros ($1.1 billion) to encourage member nations to provide artillery shells from their stocks and any orders for new rounds that they might have placed with industry.
A further one billion euros would also be used to fast-track new orders and encourage countries to work together on those purchases through the EDA or in groups of at least three nations. Germany has already called for countries to join its own effort, which Berlin believes will go faster.
The third track of the programme involves support to Europe’s defence industry so that it can ramp up production in the longer term. EU officials have said that new joint orders could be placed by May if the plan is endorsed in its entirety.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba tweeted his gratitude to Borrell and the bloc “for this game-changing decision. Exactly what is needed: urgent delivery + sustainable joint procurement.”
Kyiv has complained that its forces are having to ration firepower as Russia’s year-long invasion of Ukraine has turned into a grinding war of attrition.
Germany’s defence industry says it stands ready to ramp up its output, including the kinds of arms and ammunition needed by Ukraine, but that it needs clarity about what governments want before investing in further production capacity.
Ukraine had told the EU it wants 350,000 shells a month to help its troops hold back Moscow’s onslaught and allow them to launch fresh counteroffensives later in the year.
German Defence Minister Boris Pistorius said the “starting signal” had been given and promised Ukraine could count on getting a large amount of ammunition this year.
Ukraine became the world’s number three importer of arms in 2022 after Russia’s invasion triggered a big flow of military aid to Kyiv from the United States and Europe, according to Swedish think-tank SIPRI.
The US Department of State also announced on Monday that the US will send Ukraine $350m in weapons and equipment, including various types of ammunition, such as rockets, and an undisclosed number of fuel tanker trucks and riverine boats.