EU countries have provided 220,000 artillery shells and 1,300 missiles to Ukraine since March, its foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, has said, as member states discuss raising Europe’s military budget by another €3.5bn.
Following a meeting of defence ministers in Brussels, Borrell said “the overwhelming majority of member states” had said they were in favour of increasing the European Peace Facility budget, €1bn of which would be earmarked for Ukraine. The fund is used to reimburse EU member states that supply military aid to Kyiv.
The fight for Bakhmut, a city devastated by one of the longest battles of the war, has focused minds on concerns over shortages of ammunition.
Sources said that at points in the past year, Russia has been firing 20,000 projectiles a day, while the Ukrainian demand for artillery had soared in the face of supply challenges in the west.
“Our aim is to provide 1m projectiles over the next 12 months,” Borrell told reporters, also revealing that the EU had now trained 20,000 Ukrainian soldiers and was on track to train 30,000 by the end of the year.
As part of the three-pronged strategy, member states are being asked to restart old defence assembly lines or enhance the capacity of existing defence contractors to create more resilience in supply chains.
So far, 24 EU countries plus Norway, which is not an EU member state but is linked to the EU through the European Economic Area, have agreed.
In a third track the EU will sanction the joint procurement of munitions by EU member states from the European defence industry. €1bn was agreed for this purpose earlier this month.
“In Europe it’s very important at the moment [that] we develop an industrial base for defence which is very different to the one we have at the moment,” Borrell said. “This war unfortunately has been a bit of a laboratory, a testing ground for our capabilities.”
Defence ministers in Brussels on Tuesday also discussed the need to build a rapid evacuation task force with military planning to avert a repeat of the chaos surrounding the mass evacuations from Afghanistan and Sudan.
Separately, Poland has said it is ready to train Ukrainian pilots to fly F-16 fighter jets. “We’re ready. The Polish side is ready to train pilots on F-16 aircraft. Such training has not yet begun,” the Polish defence minister, Mariusz Blaszczak, said after talks with his EU counterparts in Brussels.
Borrell said training of pilots for the F-16 jets had already started in “several countries”, including Poland.