The Countries for Collective Purchase of Ammunition are Now 24 - Bulgaria is Not Among Them

World » UKRAINE | March 27, 2023, Monday // 13:48
Bulgaria: The Countries for Collective Purchase of Ammunition are Now 24 - Bulgaria is Not Among Them

The number of countries participating in the European Defense Agency (EDA) coordinated munitions collective purchase project announced a week ago has reached 24.

Among them are 23 countries from the European Union and Norway. Bulgaria does not participate.

At the end of last week, five more countries joined the original 18 countries:

  • Italy
  • Spain
  • Lithuania
  • Hungary
  • Poland

The inclusion of Italy and Spain is significant as they are among the top ten arms producers in the world. Also important is the participation of Poland, which is sharply increasing the production and purchase of ammunition and armaments both for its own army and to help Ukraine.

Denmark became a member of the EDA on 23 March and can now participate in all meetings, discussions, programs and orders. It is not currently part of the munitions program. Also outside the project are Slovenia, Latvia and Ireland, the latter of which is constitutionally militarily independent and has a more specific defense policy.

The EDA project is open to all EU countries.

Norway got involved right away, because since 2006 there is a so-called Administrative agreement with the agency and thus participates in its projects and programs. The remaining countries with such status are Switzerland (since 2012), Serbia (2013) and Ukraine (2015).

It is still being discussed whether and how to place orders with third countries - for example, with South Korea, which can provide the now highly sought after NATO-standard 155 mm artillery shells.

There is also another scheme for accelerated collective procurement of ammunition - combining at least three EU countries, usually one of them plays a leading role. It looks set to be used by Germany, Denmark and the Netherlands, with Berlin already announcing it is ready to open up its military industrial complex to new contracts under such a scheme.

The important "and/or" detail

The project for the collective purchase of ammunition has been discussed in recent months exclusively in the context of the need to urgently send ammunition to Ukraine, where thousands of shells are fired a day because of the war. But it is not only for supporting the Ukrainian army.

The text of the message for those who joined the program says the following:

"More member states have already expressed their intention to join the initiative soon after national procedures. With full respect for sovereign national decisions and without prejudice to the specific nature of the security and defense policy of each EU member state, the project can be used to replenish national stockpiles of Member States and/or to assist Ukraine."

This "and/or" is used by Hungary. Balázs Orbán, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán's chief of staff, was quoted by the MTI news agency as saying that Hungary supports proposals to improve defense cooperation, but is unwilling to allow weapons purchased in or through Hungary to be sent to the Ukrainian-Russian front as a result of such cooperation.

"We support the joint supply of weapons, but only the Hungarian Defense Forces and Hungarian soldiers can benefit from it, so we continue to adhere to the principle of not participating in the conflict by supplying weapons," he pointed out.

The EDA announcement further explains:

"The Collaborative Munitions Delivery project was established in record time by the EDA to respond to the call for collective and faster delivery of munitions by bringing together, coordinating and negotiating contracts with the European defense industry. The EDA project provides a solid framework of Member States' intention to jointly supply urgently needed ammunition to Ukraine This project sends a clear message to the industry and reinforces EU support for Ukraine following Russia's war of aggression.

Common procurement is the best option to reduce costs (...) while allowing member states to buy ammunition according to their national needs and support Ukraine."

Ahead of the informal meeting of the Council of Defense Ministers in Stockholm on March 7 and 8, Josep Borrell, the EU's head of foreign relations and security, identified three complementary directions for the delivery of more - and faster - artillery munitions:

  • assistance to Member States in the dispatch of such ammunition from national stocks or from pending orders
  • for collective orders and rapid transition to 155 mm shells
  • increasing the production capacity of the European defense industry

The EDA project is a path to achieve the second track, providing a fast-track procedure allowing for the simplification of the ordering process and the conclusion of contracts in short terms. In order to avoid delays in payments, Member States can provide the funds under the contracts, but will recover a significant part of the funds through the European Peace Support Facility (EPF). Since the mechanism will cover a maximum of 55-60% of the amount, in practice the contracts will be for almost twice as much funds.

The planned funds are 2 billion euros, with which in the next 12 months (efforts will be made to do this by the end of the year) Ukraine should receive 1 million shells without the member states emptying their stockpiles and creating a risk to their own defense. The acceleration of the process can be done by declaring these orders as a case of force majeure, i.e. negotiations on them can begin immediately and directly with a specific manufacturer or supplier without public procurement.

The 24 project nations are currently checking stockpiles of Soviet- and NATO-standard munitions that Ukraine needs, and by the end of May, manufacturers and dealers should have received contracts on who can help with what immediately. (EPF funding is 1 billion Euros.) Until September, the requests and contracts for the recovery of the already sent and for additional quantities of 155 mm projectiles are being collected. (EPF funding is another 1 billion euros.) The third track - for investments in key companies in the EU for the production of ammunition (such as the Bulgarian weapons plants for example) - is scheduled to last 7 years. How much and how this part will be financed is still being discussed.

On March 20, after the Council of Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Defense, Josep Borrell said: "Knowing that there will be more needs, not only for Ukraine, but also for other countries in the world, the Council also agreed to consider further increasing the overall financial capacity to the EPF by €3.5 billion. I'm not saying [that] the Council has agreed to increase it, but to consider this additional increase, which is the first step for that."

What did Radev and Orban sign in Brussels

The leaders of the EU countries, including Rumen Radev and Viktor Orban, signed on March 23 under the "Conclusions of the European Council on Ukraine". The document on the voluntary support of the Ukrainian army states, among other things:

"7. The European Union stands firmly and fully with Ukraine and will continue to provide solid political, economic, military, financial and humanitarian support to Ukraine and its people for as long as necessary.

The European Union and Member States are increasing their efforts to help meet Ukraine's urgent military and defense needs.

Taking into account the security and defense interests of all Member States, the European Council welcomes the agreement reached in the Council to urgently supply munitions for surface-to-surface complexes and ammunition for artillery systems to Ukraine and, upon request, also missiles, including through joint awarding of public contracts and mobilization of appropriate financing, including through the European Peace Support Mechanism, with the aim of providing 1 million pieces of ammunition for artillery systems through a joint effort within the next twelve months, without prejudice to the specific nature of the security and defense policy of certain Member States."

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