BRUSSELS (AP) – The European Union took a major step early Friday in approving plans to boost its anemic production of ammunition and missiles within the 27-nation bloc, to both defend itself and quickly help Ukraine in trying to push back the invasion by Russia.
The EU presidency announced early Friday that the member states and the EU Parliament reached a deal “to urgently mobilize” half a billion euros from its budget for an Act in Support of Ammunition Production.
The deal follows up the decision by EU leaders in March to boost urgently needed ammunition deliveries to Ukraine, which were then sought to start a counteroffensive against Russian forces.
Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has steadfastly asked for more military aid, from ammunition to planes and missiles.
ASAP was part of the plan to send Ukraine 1 million rounds of artillery ammunition within the next 12 months. The EU had already approved plan for a fast-track purchasing procedures when it approved funds Friday to ramp up production in EU facilities and factories.
“This is yet another proof of the EU´s unwavering commitment to supporting Ukraine, strengthening the EU´s defense, technological and industrial base, and ultimately ensuring the long-term security and defense of EU citizens,” said Defense Minister Margarita Robles of Spain, which currently holds the EU presidency.
The United States is expected to announce Friday that it will send thousands of cluster munitions as part of a new military aid package worth $800 million, according to people familiar with the decision who were not authorized to discuss it publicly before the official announcement and spoke on condition of anonymity.
Many European nations have moved even slower than Washington in providing military hardware, in part because for decades they hunkered under the U.S. military umbrella at the NATO alliance.
“Facing a war on European soil, we can no longer afford to neglect our defense as we have done over the last three decades. We urgently need to adapt our budgetary priorities,” said EU Parliament member Michael Gahler.
The deal must still be reapproved once more by the member states and Parliament, the Spanish presidency said, but the procedure should not provide major hiccups and be finished the end of the month.
Early in the war, the EU supported Ukraine with ammunition from its own reserves. But with the fighting so intense, it quickly became clear the EU nations would have to make a major effort to improve production if it did not want to be reduced to political lip-service to Kyiv.
Unrelentingly, the war has ground on. Russia fired cruise missiles Thursday at a western Ukraine city far from the front line of the war, killing at least six people in an apartment building in what officials said was the heaviest attack on civilian areas of Lviv since the Kremlin´s forces invaded the country in February 2022.
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