BRUSSELS — The devil is now in the (legal) details.
Two weeks after the EU announced a historic agreement to give Ukraine piles of ammunition, the bloc is still sorting out the legal specifics of how to actually implement it.
The squabble has stalled a first-of-its-kind plan to jointly buy ammunition for Ukraine. EU ambassadors met Wednesday to discuss the issue but were unable to make significant progress on one of the key issues, according to several diplomats with knowledge of the negotiations.
The bone of contention remains whether these arms contracts will go exclusively to EU companies (and how to legally define them), or also be open to outside manufacturers. France is pushing for the money to stay within EU borders, several diplomats said. And Greece and Cyprus back Paris in a move that some of the diplomats said is linked to their desire to avoid contracts going to Turkish manufacturers.
Two diplomats added that the European Commission, the EU’s executive, also needs to do more work to map the capacity of EU companies before a final deal can be reached.
With the issue stalled, ambassadors on Wednesday instead focused on finalizing a less-controversial part of the agreement: A deal to donate large swaths of ammunition to Kyiv. The diplomats, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive talks, said ambassadors completed a deal on the donation plan during the meeting, adding that the legal text is expected to be officially published next week.
The joint purchasing agreement has come together rapidly in recent weeks amid fears that Kyiv is running out of shells to hold off Russia’s unyielding assault. But despite the rush to approve the deal — which aims to get Ukraine 1 million rounds of ammunition over the next 12 months — the issue remains fragile. In addition to the ongoing squabbles over the fine print, there are concerns the EU’s defense industry lacks the capacity to quickly make the desired amount of shells.
The EU’s goal is to launch the plan in three simultaneous parts.
First, it will dedicate €1 billion to reimbursing countries that can immediately donate ammunition — and possibly missiles — from their own militaries or redirect incoming orders.
Then, it will set aside another €1 billion to jointly buy more ammunition for Ukraine and replace Europe’s donated shells.
Finally, it wants to explore ways to boost Europe’s ability to manufacture the arms it needs for years to come.