The setting was fitting as defence ministers reviewed top EU diplomat Josep Borrell’s EUR 20 billion (USD 22 billion) plan to make EUR 5 billion a year available for arms and training programmes for the period 2024-27.
Borrell’s aim is to move EU military support for Ukraine to a more structured basis and away from the separate payments made under the European Peace Facility (EPF).
Ukraine needs “long term, sustainable and predictable military support,” Borrell said after the meeting, adding that he hopes an agreement can be reached on the plan by the end of the year.
So far Ukraine received EUR 5.6 billion in military aid from the budget mechanism, separate to the EU budget, that reimburses EU member states for supplying arms to Ukraine and other non-EU countries.
EU treaties prevent the bloc from using EU budget funds for military projects.
Borrell also called for EU member states to raise their goal of training Ukrainian soldiers, from 30,000 to 40,000, by the end of the year.
The EU foreign policy chief added that Ukraine needs more specialized instruction, calling for the training of pilots in F16 fighter jets to be integreated into the EU training programme.
EU defence ministers were also debating wider aspects of support for Ukraine as it defends itself against Russian aggression, including an EU plan to deliver 1 million artillery shells before the end of the year.
Estonian Defence Minister Hanno Pevkur said “not enough” is being done to reach this goal. According to Pevkur, commitments to deliver artillery shells to Ukraine number only 226,000.
All options need to be on the table to reach the artillery shell goal, Pevkur said, including buying producing more, refurbishing old supplies and buying shells from non-EU countries.
The meeting comes as the Ukrainian military struggles to dislodge the Russian army from occupied territories in the country. Pevkur said capturing Tokmak, a city in the southern Zaporizhzhya region, would be a milestone win and key to cutting off Russian supply lines.