Shells for Ukraine: EU Plan Slows Down as France and Poland Squabble

Thursday, 20 April 2023

France and Poland squabbled on Wednesday when the country's ambassadors to the EU failed to settle a dispute over joint EU contracts to purchase ammunition for Ukraine.

According to Politico, referring to three diplomats familiar with the situation, EU ambassadors have tried to break the impasse over how to implement a joint ammunition purchase plan for Ukraine in its fight against Russia. Although EU leaders approved a  communal scheme and have even allocated 2 billion euros to finance it, some EU countries have since disagreed over how to spend the 1 billion euros set aside for joint contracts.

The main issue of the dispute is how much these contracts should be restricted to manufacturers from the EU and whether companies from countries such as the US and the UK should be included in the programme. 

France favours keeping the funds within the European Union, which has irked some of its EU colleagues.

According to three diplomats, at a meeting of EU representatives on Wednesday, the French ambassador to the EU accused his Polish counterpart of blaming Paris in the press for obstructing the path to reaching a final agreement.

The French official, according to the diplomats, stressed that Paris is simply being pragmatic and noted that EU countries have already agreed to spend 1 billion euros on reimbursements for ammunition supplied to Ukraine.

The Polish official objected, saying that France was only complicating the current negotiations.

In the end, Sweden, which holds the presidency of the EU Council, intervened in the matter, trying to find a compromise. Swedish officials proposed an updated agreement text to satisfy both sides.

The compromise document limited future contracts to "economic operators established in the EU and Norway" but included a line stating that the directive should not set a precedent. 

Some diplomats felt the new text was too favourable to France's position. Others complained that it raised further questions about which companies or subcontractors should be involved in contracts.

Late on Wednesday, EU officials admitted they could not reach any agreements that day.

Negotiations are likely to continue next week. This means that EU foreign ministers have yet to have a deal in hand to discuss at their meeting in Luxembourg on Monday.

The joint ammunition purchase plan is part of a three-step process that EU leaders approved last month in the hopes of quickly obtaining much-needed ammunition for Ukraine. 

According to one of the diplomats, one of the critical concerns that persist is that the European defence industry may not be up to the task of delivering 1 million shells to Ukraine within 12 months. 

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