EU leaders to push for defence investment programme at December summit -draft

FILE PHOTO: European Union flags flutter outside the EU Commission headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, September 28, 2022. REUTERS/Yves Herman

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - European Union leaders are pushing to quickly establish an investment programme to ramp up production in the bloc's defence industry in light of the war in Ukraine, according to a draft of conclusions for a Dec. 15-16 summit.

"The European Council ... calls on the Commission to rapidly present a proposal for a European Defence Investment Programme to reinforce the capacity and resilience of the European defence technology and industrial sector, including small and medium enterprises," said the draft, seen by Reuters on Wednesday.

The document is likely to be adjusted before the summit.

EU leaders will also push the bloc's executive commission and the European Defence Agency to intensify efforts to identify military gaps and coordinate joint defence procurement, in particular to replenish their stocks of materiel, which have been depleted in support of Ukraine.

The EU has long urged member states to join forces on arms purchases instead of driving up prices by competing against each other or striking deals individually with suppliers outside the bloc.

Countries have been reluctant to do so, but the Ukraine war - which Russia calls a "special operation" - and the rate of Western arms deliveries to Kyiv have added a fresh sense of urgency.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said this month that the EU and its member states have provided arms and military equipment worth at least 8 billion euros to Ukraine so far.

At their summit in Brussels, EU leaders will also call for speedier implementation of infrastructure work meant to facilitate swift military movement across Europe, according to the draft document.

The construction and modernisation of infrastructure such as roads and bridges is part of the EU's "Military Mobility" project, which also aims to simplify and standardise procedures for military personnel and equipment as they cross borders by road, rail, sea or air.

Military experts have long complained that derelict or missing infrastructure and red tape are hampering the swift movement of personnel and equipment that would be crucial if NATO allies had to send reinforcements to eastern Europe in the case of a conflict.

(Reporting by Jan Strupczewski, writing by Sabine Siebold; Editing by John Chalmers)

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