When it pledged to supply 1 million artillery shells and missiles to Ukraine within 12 months to help it resist Russia’s invasion last month, the European Union reached an important defense milestone.
Officially, the EU, which was built on the ruins of World War II with the goal of maintaining peace on the continent, cannot take on “expenditure arising from operations having military or defense implications,” according to Article 41 of the Treaty on European Union (TEU).
Even if Brussels has gradually addressed these defense issues since the end of the 1990s through greater policy coordination as well as the launch of civilian and military missions, these areas still remain the sovereignty of each member state.
But the return of war to the European continent is compelling member states to come together on the issue. President of the European Council Charles Michel recalled last week that “a few weeks before the outbreak of this total invasion by Russia, it was politically unthinkable for the heads of state to authorize the delivery of weapons by the EU.
However, Michel told radio France Info, “It took only a few hours for the first weapons to arrive on Ukrainian soil (…) This has allowed a leap forward in European defense policy.”
“On February 24, 2022, Europe was stunned. We had to do something. To encourage the sending of weapons, we had the idea of using the European Peace Facility (EPF),” a diplomatic source in Brussels told The world.
A year later, Europe still uses this instrument to finance, this time, the transfer and production of munitions. Impelled in 2018 by Frederic Mogherini, then High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, the EPF is funded by member states. As an off-budget funding mechanism, it allows circumventing restrictions included in the TEU.
“At the time, it was necessary to help Mali with something more than just non-lethal equipment,” a senior EU official said. Three years passed before the instrument became fully operational in 2021. Josep Borrell, Mogherini’s successor, was given an initial budget of €5.7 billion.
The EPF is a “game changer,” according to a diplomat based in Brussels. “Two days after the start of hostilities, a first tranche of €500 million was released to fund, in part, weapons sent by member states to Kyiv. Since then, €3.6 billion have been released. And, in front of our colleagues outside Europe, we finally appear to be serious when we talk about weaponry.”
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