BRUSSELS (AP) — European Union leaders were poised Thursday to confirm a plan to send Ukraine one million rounds of artillery ammunition over the next 12 months to help the country counter invading Russian forces.
EU foreign and defense ministers approved the plan to fast-track the purchase earlier this week, and leaders of the bloc’s 27 member states will give it their political blessing at a summit in Brussels, according to several senior EU diplomats. They spoke anonymously in line with EU practices ahead of the summit.
With Ukraine facing ammunition shortages after more than a year of fighting, Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas floated the idea last month for the EU to set up a joint procurement plan similar to the one devised during the coronavirus pandemic to buy vaccines.
“What is critical is to send ammunition to Ukraine quickly, because that could bring about a change in this war,” Kallas said as she arrived at the summit.
According to the plan, the European Defense Agency would aggregate member states’ requests for restocking in parallel with the deliveries and lead a fast-track procedure for direct negotiations with industrial ammunition suppliers in Europe.
“When we have this joint procurement, then the defense industry has orders that they can actually double production, because they haven’t done that before,” Kallas said.
According to various estimates, Ukraine fires 6,000-7,000 artillery shells per day, about a third of Russia’s total.
EU foreign policy and security chief Josep Borrell said this week he had secured approval to allocate 1 billion euros ($1.1 billion) to encourage member states to deliver artillery shells from their existing stocks and any pending orders. Another billion euros would go towards speeding up new orders and encouraging countries to work together on purchases through the European Defense Agency or in groups of at least three countries.
Germany has already invited countries to join its own buying effort, which Berlin believes will move faster.
Hungary has said it will not participate in the supply of ammunition to Ukraine, citing its commitment to peace, but has said it will not prevent other members from doing so by blocking the deal.
Last month, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said the EU was partly to blame for prolonging Russia’s war in Ukraine by sanctioning Russia and supplying Ukraine with money and weapons instead of trying to negotiate peace with Moscow.
Bulgarian President Rumen Radev also ruled out the delivery of grenades as long as the interim government is in charge of the country.
“This is our sovereign decision,” he said. “Bulgaria will support European diplomatic efforts to restore peace.
The leaders will also discuss the possibility of adding an additional €3.5 billion to the European Peace Fund – a fund used to reimburse member states that provide arms, ammunition and military support to Ukraine.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy will address the two-day summit in Brussels via video link. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres joined EU leaders for lunch on Thursday.
Guterres described a bleak global situation, with the world facing a “perfect storm” in many parts of the world.
“More hunger, more poverty, less education, less health services,” he said. “And it is clear that our international financial system is not fit for purpose to deal with such a huge challenge.”
EU leaders will also discuss the bloc’s competitiveness and its response to the US’s $369 billion Inflation Relief Act. The talks on Friday will focus on economic and financial issues.
Veselin Toshkov in Sofia, Bulgaria contributed to this story.
Follow AP coverage of the war in Ukraine: https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine