EU Commission wants to drastically boost ammunition production

The EU Commission wants to switch Europe from times of peace to times of war: According to SPIEGEL information, a three-stage plan envisages a massive increase in ammunition production.

The EU Commission wants to boost ammunition production in Europe. Ursula von der Leyen’s authority wants to present the member states with a plan that will not only ensure the supply of Ukraine in the defense against the Russian invasion, but also the replenishment of stocks in the EU countries.

According to the discussion paper that the commission will present to the ambassadors of the member countries on Thursday and that is available to SPIEGEL, the plan contains three pillars.

The first pillar provides for an immediate increase in the supply of ammunition, in particular artillery shells with a caliber of 155 millimeters, to Ukraine. EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell will soon propose an additional support package worth EUR 1 billion for the supply of ammunition, primarily 155mm grenades.

The second pillar provides for the European Defense Agency (EDA) to jointly purchase 155 millimeter ammunition in order to fill the gaps in the stocks of the EU countries and to ensure the supply of Ukraine in the long term.

The third pillar is intended to secure the long-term increase in European ammunition production capacities in order to take account of the changed security situation.

The emergency aid of the first pillar is to follow the already established pattern: the EU states supply Ukraine and receive money from the European Peace Facility (EPF) in return. Its financial cover has already been increased three times by EUR 500 million each, and in December it was decided to increase it to EUR 2 billion. As soon as it is carried out, the additional one billion euros that Borrell is to propose will come.

The time of peace is over

The second pillar of the plan contains a clear message: the time when peace in Europe was believed to be secure is over. The situation has fundamentally changed with Russia’s attack on Ukraine, and the EU states should take this into account – by acquiring larger quantities of ammunition in the long term.

This should succeed with the help of a project by the EDA. The member countries and the Ukraine should throw their collected needs into the balance here in order to “place a massive order and give the industry a clear demand signal,” says the paper. According to the Commission, only if the industry is sure that there is such a demand will it be willing to increase its production capacities in the long term.

Procurement could be modeled after the procurement agency Occar, which has already handled joint armament projects such as the A400M military transport aircraft. The states could register their needs there, and the agency would then negotiate the contracts. Alternatively, a “leading nation” could take on this role and buy ammunition for the other countries involved, the paper says. For the part that is delivered to Ukraine, there should then be compensation from the EPF.

The Commission also hopes that the joint order will result in significantly lower prices than before. 25 of the 27 EU countries and Norway have already expressed an interest in participating in the project, which will run for seven years.

In addition, the supply of ammunition to the Ukrainians is now even more precarious than it was last fall. Not only does the Commission emphasize this several times in its purchasing plan, it is also in a confidential discussion paper from the Estonian Defense Ministry, which SPIEGEL has seen.

Accordingly, Russia fires 20,000 to 60,000 artillery shells per day, around ten times more than Ukraine. However, Europe’s defense industry can only produce 20,000 to 25,000 shells per month.

However, the Estonians estimate, based on information from the armaments industry, that this number could be increased sevenfold. As early as this year, it is possible to produce one million 155-millimeter grenades at a cost of around four billion euros.

The Commission does not want to confirm whether this is realistic. The Estonians, on the other hand, call for more speed in their paper. It would take “extraordinary efforts” and “quick decisions” to boost ammunition procurement this year – “that requires the seriousness of the situation in Ukraine”.

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this article said the Commission had already presented its proposals to EU countries on Wednesday. We corrected the mistake.