The supply of shells and the “formula of peace”: what decisions regarding Ukraine will the EU ministers take on Monday
On Monday, March 20, a meeting of EU foreign and defense ministers will take place in Brussels. The main issue will be the coordination of a plan for the provision of ammunition to Ukraine and the extension of support from the EU.
This is reported by a correspondent of Channel 24 in Brussels, citing a European diplomat.
According to the diplomat on condition of anonymity, two meetings are expected. The foreign ministers will meet first, and then the defense ministers will join them. In addition, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmitry Kuleba will join the European colleagues online.
During the first part of the meeting, the Foreign Ministers will discuss Russian aggression against Ukraine. Supplies and production of ammunition for Ukraine will be discussed during the second part of the meeting.
Signing of an agreement on the supply of ammunition
Member States are expected to agree on a triangular approach to assist Ukraine, proposed by EU High Representative Josep Borrell, together with EDA and the European Commission. The first step involves ensuring the immediate delivery of more ammunition, in particular 155 millimeters, to the Ukrainian Armed Forces through an ongoing assistance package funded by the European Peace Fund.
The second step is to coordinate demand and jointly purchase 155mm munitions to replenish the stocks of Member States and provide further support to Ukraine. And the last proposal is to increase the production capacity of the European defense technology and industrial base to meet demand.
According to the European diplomat, the foreign ministers and the defense ministry will sign a joint agreement on the purchase of 155mm artillery ammunition for Ukraine on Monday. The source does not name how many countries will sign the document, but believes that the support will be sufficient. In addition, other interested persons will be able to join the initiative later. The project is open to all EU Member States, as well as Norway.
In order to conclude an agreement, states must agree to all steps of the tripartite agreement. In addition, the need to work on three parts in parallel is noted, because they will reinforce each other.
If an agreement is reached, ministers may agree to increase the budget of the European Peace Fund to 3.5 billion euros.
Now European officials are in close contact with the Ukrainian authorities in order to clearly understand what kind of 155-mm shells Ukraine needs.
Given the urgent need to purchase 155mm artillery ammunition for Ukraine, the European Defense Agency has determined a fast-track solution specifically for 155mm artillery guns. This accelerated decision entails a negotiation procedure with European industry. This part of the project is the basis of the second step, which provides for the joint purchase of ammunition in a fast way, the diplomat noted.
The European Defense Agency is the Member State agency providing a platform for joint procurement. According to the interlocutor, if all the prerequisites are met, the first orders will be placed at the end of May.
“First orders at the end of May is a very ambitious schedule, but at the same time realistic. However, if we place orders at the end of May, we need to be realistic on delivery times. I can’t tell you when the first companies can deliver,” – said the representative of the EU.
Now the issue of supply is part of the negotiation process. However, specific orders will stimulate the European industry and increase its capacity. However, according to preliminary data, the interval from placing an order to the delivery of manufactured ammunition may be 12 months. It should be noted that the EU has identified 15 enterprises in 11 countries of the Union that can produce shells of 155 mm caliber.
Officials are expected to discuss the formula for peace. The proposal of the President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky will be on the table and other ideas will be considered during the meeting. In addition, there may be discussion on the Chinese peace proposal. However, the European diplomat noted that the points in the Chinese document are not fully balanced. For example, the idea of achieving the security of one state at the expense of another is inconsistent with neither international law nor the European approach to collective security. According to the diplomat, the European Union wants peace in Ukraine, however, this cannot happen “at any cost.”
In addition, ministers may discuss a report from the UN Commission on Violations of International Human Rights and Humanitarian Law.
Tougher sanctions against Russia
According to the source, during the meeting, the foreign ministers may return to the discussion of sanctions against Russia, but decisions on this issue are not expected. The diplomat noted that although most restrictions have already been introduced in the form of ten packages of sanctions, the EU will not stop there.
However, the imposition of sanctions against Rosatom is a complex issue for the European Union.
As for Rosatom, it is connected with the nuclear industry of some EU member states. Unlike gas and oil, there is no easy alternative for the nuclear fuel and maintenance that this company provides for Soviet-built nuclear power plants. This issue remains on the agenda,” the European diplomat said on condition of anonymity.
On Thursday, March 16, IAEA President Rafael Grossi visited the EU Council and reported on the situation at the Zaporozhye NPP. Grossi expressed concern about the station's constant outages from the network. The diplomat expressed hope that the EU member states would support Grossi's idea of a “viable solution” for the safety of the Zaporozhye NPP.
Black Sea Grain Initiative
The diplomat noted that the ministers might discuss the extension of the “grain agreement”. A continuation has already been agreed, but the source says it is not known if the agreement will last 60 or 120 days.
This deal is fundamental because it is a key part of the actual security dispute in the world. The agreement is a key part of food security, the interlocutor noted.
It should be noted that on March 23-24, European leaders will meet in the EU Council and the final approval of the supply of ammunition will be theirs.