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At a specially convened conference on 19 March 2023 the defence ministers of 17 EU states plus Norway signed an agreement on the joint procurement of ammunition (Collaborative Procurement of Ammunition) to support Ukraine in its fight against invading Russian forces.

Under the leadership of the European Defence Agency (EDA), the participating nations intend to provide Ukraine with ammunition from their own stocks and from current procurements to a value of EUR 1 Bn. For another billion euros the countries are to jointly procure ammunition for delivery to Ukraine. A third pillar of the programme, meanwhile, is the creation of a sustainable long-term supply chain for ammunition.

At a specially convened conference on 19 March the defence ministers of 17 EU states plus Norway agreed to jointly procure ammunition for Ukraine. (Photo: EDA)

The flexible and comprehensive agreement allows all other EDA member states to join the initiative at a later stage, the EDA stated, while noting that the building of individual countries’ ammunition stockpiles according to NATO specifications remains a national responsibility for each country concerned.

The EDA says it intends to procure 155 mm artillery ammunition in a fast-track procedure over a period of two years, while for other types of ammunition a seven-year project is to be launched. To this end national orders are to be bundled and awarded jointly with industry via the EDA. This is intended to accelerate procurement and make it more cost-effective through economies of scale. Financing will come from the European Peace Facility.

Joint financing, co-ordination and procurement in Europe is new territory, noted German Defence Minister Boris Pistorius. “This has never been done before in this form,” he said. “We are breaking new ground in co-operative procurement in Europe. We are pooling Europe’s market power with this.”

Signing the agreement to jointly procure ammunition for Ukraine, German Defence Minister Boris Pistorius said such co-operation had “never been done before”. (Photo: EDA)

Pistorius stated that he wants to use national framework agreements to open up the contracts to other partners and said he is already in talks with some. The goal must be to deliver a significant amount of ammunition to Ukraine before the end of this year, he said. When asked, he named Denmark and the Netherlands as partners. The current contracts are limited, but Pistorius expects offers for new contracts to come at the end of March.

The initiative for the joint provision of ammunition to Ukraine goes back to a proposal by the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Head of the EDA, Joseph Borell, which he had presented to the EU defence ministers on 7 March.

The countries participating in the initiative are Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, and Sweden, in addition to Norway as a non-EU member.

Gerhard Heiming