BRUSSELS — The EU will deliver a million artillery shells to Ukraine — but not by the March deadline leaders had agreed, the CEO of the European Defence Agency Jiří Šedivý told POLITICO.
The agency has been at the heart of efforts to transform the bloc’s military industry by matching contractors with capitals in massive joint ammunition deals targeted at boosting local production and supplying arms to Ukraine.
The million shell target was decided by EU leaders last March to support Kyiv in its fight against invading Russian forces, but there were deep divisions over the success of the policy during Tuesday’s meeting of defense ministers in Brussels.
Some, like Germany Defense Minister Boris Pistorius, said the target wouldn’t be reached and questioned the sense of setting it in the first place, while others, like Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton, said the bloc was capable of producing enough ammunition — as long as governments sign contracts with arms-makers.
The EDA chief leans toward a more optimistic assessment.
“The target of 1 million will be achieved — maybe even beyond that — but indeed, the timeline is too ambitious,” Šedivý said in an interview just hours after meeting defense ministers in his role as the chief of the bloc’s technical agency.
So far, EU countries have dispatched around 300,000 shells to Ukraine, with the EDA running a second track to jointly procure ammo to refill national stocks as well as provide further support to Ukraine.
In October, the agency said seven member countries agreed to place orders for critical 155 millimeter ammunition under a fast-track joint procurement scheme.
While the EDA won’t disclose the total volume of those contracts, Šedivý said that, coupled with national orders from larger countries like Germany, France and Sweden, it would add up to “lower 100,000s of ammunition” which would still put the bloc well beneath the 1 million mark.
“The orders are just being placed,” Šedivý, a former Czech defense minister, said. “The industry is just being engaged.”
The EU’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, said Tuesday at the ministerial that contractors should be urged to boost deliveries to countries supplying Ukraine by curbing exports to non-EU clients.
But that’s easier said than done.
“It’s quite unrealistic to imagine that customers outside the EU would accept any reprioritization,” Šedivý said.
Instead, governments need to start committing to contracts running “five to 10 years” to spur investment in the EU, Šedivý added, in the same way that healthcare firms got bulk orders to build up stocks of COVID masks and testing kits during the pandemic.
“We will not achieve this [million rounds] target by March 2024, most probably,” he said. “But at the same time we are getting there.”
Source : politico