EU Seeks Deal on Artillery Shells for Ukraine

BRUSSELS (AP) -- European Union ministers are meeting Monday to try to finalize a plan to supply Ukraine with sorely needed artillery shells, replenish their own national stocks and ramp up Europe's defense industry, as Russia continues to focus its attacks on the industrial east of the war-ravaged country.

The 27-nation bloc's foreign and defense ministers will discuss the plan at a joint session in Brussels. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba is due to provide an update of the latest developments in the year-long war and to set out his country's military needs.

The EU's aim is to provide Ukraine with 1 million 155-millimeter artillery shells this year.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, who is chairing the meeting, is seeking approval for a proposal to provide 1 billion euros ($1.1 billion) to encourage member nations to provide artillery shells from their stocks and any orders for new rounds that they might have placed with industry.

A further 1 billion euros would then be used to fast-track new orders and encourage member countries to work together on those purchases through the European Defense Agency or in groups of at least three nations. Germany has already called for countries to join its effort.

The third track of the scheme involves support to Europe's defense industry so that it can ramp up production in the longer term. EU officials have said that new joint orders could be placed by May if the plan is endorsed.

Germany's defense industry says it stands ready to ramp up its output, including the kinds of arms and ammunition needed by Ukraine, but that it needs clarity about what governments want before investing in further production capacity.

Ukraine became the world's third-largest importer of arms in 2022 after Russia's invasion triggered a big flow of military aid to Kyiv from the United States and Europe, according to Swedish think tank SIPRI.

"What's important for us as an industry is to get predictability," Hans Christoph Atzpodien, the head of Germany's arms manufacturing association, told The Associated Press last week. "That means we have to be clearly told which products are needed within which time."