by Alexandra Brzozowski and Aurelie Pugnet
While EU member states are expected to pledge continued military support to Ukraine at a decisive summit on Thursday (1 February), hurdles for a future funding scheme remain.
This week’s summit will see an effort to reach an agreement on a financial aid package for Ukraine worth €50 billion over four years, which Hungary blocked at a previous summit in December.
EU leaders will restate their determination to continue to provide “timely, predictable and sustainable military support” to Ukraine, according to draft conclusions of the meeting, seen by Euractiv.
“The European Council also reiterates the urgent need to accelerate the delivery of ammunition and missiles,” the draft text also says.
Earlier this month, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz urged other EU member states to deliver more military aid to Ukraine, saying Berlin has asked Brussels to check with countries on their planned support for Kyiv.
EU defence ministers on Wednesday (31 January) are expected to hold a first informal discussion of the review prepared by the bloc’s diplomatic service (EEAS) before leaders will take it up on Thursday.
At the same time, the draft summit conclusions leave open whether EU leaders will pledge to put another €5 billion for Ukraine aid into the European Peace Facility (EPF), which has been used to reimburse donations of weapons to Kyiv.
The funding pledge is part of the long-term commitment, which Ukraine sees as security assurance, as it would help Kyiv plan and manage shortfalls in military support.
EU member states have been wrangling for months over the future of the fund’s role in military aid to Ukraine, with Germany suggesting the focus should now be on bilateral aid from individual countries in the bloc.
The decision of pledging a further €5 billion is included in the draft text in square brackets, indicating it is still a matter of discussion.
“What we would like to have is a tasking [from EU leaders] to set the fund’s modalities until March [at] the latest,” a senior EU official said.
“This way, we have the political decision on EU accession talks that took place in December, look towards the financial support decision in February [at Thursday’s summit] and had the military support fixed in March,” they added.
Work on the modalities
The EU’s diplomatic service (EEAS) tabled a new draft proposal, reported by Euractiv, of the revised rules for the special Ukraine military assistance fund, which EU defence ministers are expected to discuss informally on Wednesday.
As European military stocks are running low, the fund’s money will be used to procure new military aid, rather than donations, member states such as France and Germany have argued that the reimbursement rules must change.
For this reason, they are rejecting to green-light the fund’s €5 billion top-up, three people with knowledge of the talks told Euractiv, until new rules have been agreed.
While reimbursements under the fund are currently done on actual deliveries, Berlin would like to see a system based on pledges, Euractiv understands.
Paris, Euractiv understands, is pushing for the money to go only to European and jointly procured military aid, a demand that the EU’s diplomatic service has taken into account.
France said it would need more time to straighten out the corners of the proposal before giving it its final approval, and the EU summit on Thursday is too early, one person briefed on the issue said.
“For the moment, what we are doing is working on developing the parameters of the European Peace Facility, and the budgetary question will come later,” an Elysee source said.
“The idea is that [EU leaders] should open the debate and that the Council should be mandated to try and work towards a result – probably at the next European Council – that will then allow us to tackle the budgetary issue,” they added.
Neither the French nor German defence minister is expected to attend Wednesday’s informal meeting in Brussels.
*first published in: Euractiv.com