Josep Borrell, the European Union’s foreign policy chief, has proposed a new plan to provide “sustainable and predictable” military support to Ukraine.
Under the blueprint, the bloc will earmark €20 billion for the next four years to partially reimburse the expenses incurred by member states with their supplies to the war-torn nation, which is in the midst of a counteroffensive against the invading Russian troops.
The money will pay for lethal and non-lethal equipment, in line with the neutrality principle that a few member states maintain, and would constitute one of the security commitments EU leaders agreed to provide Ukraine at a summit last month.
The financial allocation, Borrell explained on Thurday evening after a meeting of foreign affairs ministers in Brussels, will be part of the European Peace Facility (EPF), the off-budget instrument that has so far channelled €5.6 billion in military assistance for the Ukrainian Armed Forces.
The existence of a separate tool is indispensable because the EU’s founding treaties prohibit using common funds to finance “operations having military or defence implications.”
“We propose the creation of a dedicated section under the European Peace Facility to provide up to €5 billion a year for the next four years for the defence needs of Ukraine,” Borrell said.
The €20-billion envelope still needs to be turned into a fully-fledged proposal and negotiated by member states. It will be discussed “in detail” at an informal ministerial meeting in Toledo, Spain, set to take place in late August, Borrell said.
“This is the evaluation of the needs and the costs of our long-term security commitments to Ukraine,” he added.
Borrell, who took only one question during the press conference, did not provide more information about the draft plan.
One of the questions that remain unanswered is how this “dedicated chapter” will be able to circumvent the veto power that has slowed down payments under the EPF programme. In fact, the latest €500 million tranche remains blocked by Hungary in retaliation for Ukraine’s decision to list OTP Bank as an “international sponsor of war.”
The latest proposal from Brussels comes at a particularly delicate time for Kyiv.
Ukrainian forces have spent the past few days trying to repel Russian strikes against the country’s grain storage facilities, something that Borrell described as an “atrocity.”
The attacks began shortly after President Vladimir Putin decided to suspend the Black Sea corridor that had facilitated the trade of low-cost cereals around the world. The Kremlin has warned that any ships leaving Ukrainian ports would be treated as “potential carriers of military cargo,” a threat that sent commodity prices surging.
“The world faces again a man-made problem of food security. Putin is using hunger as a weapon even against countries that will hesitate to condemn his illegal bloodshed in Ukraine,” Borrell said.
“The international community should respond decisively to this deliberate attempt by Putin to starve the world’s populations in order to gain extra money or to fight the illegal war.”