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7th Dec 2022

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EU summit will be 'unwavering' on arms for Ukraine

  • Drone and counter-drone systems have performed well (Photo: Lynsey Addario)
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EU leaders will shortly vow to continue arming and financing Ukraine in the face of "unspeakable" Russian "atrocities ... suffering and destruction".

That is the thrust of a draft EU-Ukraine summit statement, dated 24 May and seen by EUobserver.

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"The European Union is unwavering in its commitment to help Ukraine exercise its inherent right of self-defence against Russian aggression," it also says.

EU states have so far pumped in €2bn of weapons into Ukraine from a joint fund, and much more in bilateral terms — despite Russian targeting of Western arms convoys and complaints about a "proxy war".

Leaders will also "welcome" any new legal "confiscation measures" of Russian wealth in the EU and exploration of "options aimed at using frozen Russian assets to support Ukraine's reconstruction".

And they will complain that Russian president Vladimir Putin is weaponising food supply by insisting on EU sanctions relief in return for letting Ukraine deliver grain to world markets via its ports.

"The European Council strongly condemns the destruction and illegal appropriation by Russia of agricultural production in Ukraine" and calls for new "land routes, notably to reach the Baltic Sea, the Black Sea and the Adriatic Sea", the draft says.

EU ambassadors are still finessing the declaration before the summit begins on Monday (30 May).

But the smooth text masks several ongoing EU disagreements on how to deal with Russia.

On one hand, the draft summit declaration is more hawkish in its rhetoric than some might have wanted.

Italy, Hungary, and Cyprus had also been pushing for the EU statement to call for an immediate ceasefire, Reuters reported.

But the latest drafts contained nothing about this amid resistance from Poland and the Baltic States to offering any concessions to Moscow.

Instead, the draft puts a strong emphasis on the criminality of Russian actions.

"Russia, Belarus and all those responsible will be held to account for their actions in accordance with international law," it warns.

On the other hand, the draft says nothing on the EU log-jam on Russia sanctions.

Leaders plan to get even tougher on sanctions circumvention and speak of "phasing out the European Union's dependency on Russian gas, oil and coal imports as soon as possible".

They also speak of increasing "preparedness to possible major supply disruptions and the resilience of the EU gas market," by accelerated "filling of storage before next winter".

But Hungary, for one, claims to be so dependent on Russian oil it is vetoing an EU oil embargo and related package of new sanctions on Russia, prompting some in the EU, such as Germany, to consider unilateral embargoes instead.

The EU could also impose a ban at the level of 26 member states only, without Hungary, but this would "set a bad precedent" for future sanctions evasion, one EU diplomat said.

"It would breach EU competition rules and its would be a great story for Russian propagandists," he added.

Membership? Next summit

The declaration also gives Ukraine nothing to grasp in terms of its bid to become officially recognised as an EU "candidate" country.

Leaders merely "take note" of its application and say they "will revert to the matter at [their] June meeting".

Zooming back on the defence sector, the EU summit will say Russia's war means Europe should build up her own armed forces separate from Nato.

"The Russian war of aggression against Ukraine has caused a major shift in the European Union's strategic environment and has shown the need for a stronger and more capable European Union in the field of security and defence," the declaration says.

And all that means a golden age for arms suppliers, as EU states inject billions into both Ukraine's and their own arsenals.

"As a matter of urgency, measures to coordinate very short-term defence procurement needs to support joint procurement to replenish stocks, notably in the light of the support provided to Ukraine," the text says.

"In absolute terms the biggest revenues will as before come from major projects for aircraft, major ships and submarines, air defence systems and large land systems," said Pieter Wezeman, a senior researcher at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, a Swedish think-tank, speaking of future EU spending.

Some "niche areas" may also "see a specific increased demand due to the perceived success of certain weapons in Ukraine. For example, producers of small armed drones or drone counter systems," he added.

"The increase in demand is spread over basically all European countries and the US," Wezeman said.

Companies such Sweden's Saab, the Polish Armament Group, and Germany's Rheinmetall, Airbus, KMW and Lürssen "will also chase opportunities throughout Western and central Europe", he added.

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