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Visiting Ukraine, Karen Melchior speaking with Kharkiv mayor in a white room sitting at a table next to Petras

Ukraine Media Guildhall interview – Ways to improve EU’s military aid to Ukraine and EU sanctions

Since the full-scale invasion by Russia of Ukraine, the Ukrainian media Guildhall has been interviewing European politicians about their views and on where the European legislators are heading in support of Ukraine. 

Guildhall has previously interviewed me in writing, but yesterday was my first video interview to provide my recommendations for improvement of the EU’s military aid to Ukraine strategy and EU sanctions policy. I will add the link when it’s public.

Key messages from me are:

  • The EU and the EU member states must quickly mobilise further military support for Ukraine to secure victory. We must also agree on sufficient security guarantees for Ukraine and prepare for Ukraine’s accession to NATO. 
  • EU accession of Ukraine will provide the best stability and security for Europe. Any delays, doubts or wavering in the process for Ukraine’s accession will be used by Russia to divide and destabilise the democratic institutions of Europe and its member states. We inside the EU must now prepare the EU, its member states, and institutions to accommodate future enlargement.
  • Across the EU, we must see our support for Ukraine as an investment in our own security and the security of our nearby regions, not just as support for Ukraine.

How can the EU revitalise our defence industry and establish a stable system for providing military assistance?

How does the EU already support Ukraine with military aid?

The EU has already provided significant military and other support to Ukraine. As the war does not show signs of ending soon, continued support of Ukraine’s military by the EU and member states remains crucial. 

The EU and its member countries must quickly mobilise and intensify our military support for Ukraine and agree on sufficient guarantees for Ukraine’s lasting security. To achieve this, we should revitalise the EU’s defence industry and establish a stable system for providing military assistance. European Commission has launched several initiatives to facilitate joint procurement, refill European stocks, and strengthen European defence firms over the long term. 

The EU has provided Ukraine with military assistance through our European Peace Facility, where the EU has committed €5.6 billion to date in military assistance financing for Ukraine. This aid includes €3.1 billion for lethal equipment, €380 million for nonlethal supplies, and €2 billion to provide Ukraine with 1 million rounds of ammunition. 

When EU Member states assist Ukraine, they can be reimbursed by the EPF, but the EU estimates that members’ bilateral military support to Ukraine is more than €19 billion. Furthermore, the EU has established a training mission for Ukraine’s armed forces. 

On 17 October 2023, the European Parliament adopted our position on the Ukraine Facility with an overall capacity of €50 billion for 2024-2027 to support the country’s recovery, reconstruction and modernisation. 

We in Europe need to improve our own defence industry. 

The war and need for assistance to Ukraine have led to many uncomfortable revelations about the EU ourselves, precisely our military production capacities and current readiness for serious, large-scale wars. 

We need more ammunition and equipment while not being able to produce new supplies, as there is a need for more suppliers for specific products or subparts, skilled workers, factories, and raw materials. 

For many years, Europe has not prepared ourselves for for intense warfare. The articles in the media from days ago on the EU falling behind our plan to provide Ukraine with one million artillery shells by March 2024 (as promised) is another proof of that. 

The way the EU decides on the provision of military aid to Ukraine or sanctions has brought up a bigger question: How influential are decisions like this made within the EU, and whether we need to revise the rules? 

Right now, individual EU members can block decisions on specific critical issues. For example, Hungary has been holding up the release of €500 million in military aid to Ukraine under the European Peace Facility. I, together with MEPs in the European Parliament, am suggesting that we should review these rules to make sure the EU can act swiftly and stay effective in times of need. 

What new sanctions will be in the 12th package, and how will they be implemented effectively?

We must continue to adopt new sanctions against Russia as long as Russia does not respect human rights internally and is engaged in a war of aggression. Adopting new sanctions is not enough if our sanctions are ineffective; that is why we must ensure adequate implementation of the existing sanctions against Russia.

EU must continue to impose more sanctions against Russia and ensure their effective enforcement.

Since the full-scale invasion in 2022, the EU has imposed 11 packages of unprecedented sanctions aimed at curtailing Russia’s ability to wage war. These sanctions include restrictive measures against almost 1800 individuals and entities involved in the war in Ukraine, a ban on numerous imported goods and services such as oil and raw materials, and prohibiting exports to Russia of any military equipment or component as well as dual-use products.

The 12th package of sanctions is in the making – the Commission is currently consulting with the Member States. Rumours are that the Russian export of diamonds into the EU is part of this package.

We need to ensure adequate implementation of the existing sanctions against Russia. Russia is skilled at finding ways to avoid sanctions using different markets and methods:

For example, we cannot be blind to the unusual increase in EU-sanctioned dual-use products (which can also be used for military purposes) going to countries near Russia or those with strong political ties with Russia.

In a recent report by the Norwegian Helsinki Committee, experts found that a lot of sanctioned goods related to warfare were going directly from EU ports and airports to Russia. 

EU suppliers sold these goods to companies or individuals in third countries.  While the goods were still in the EU, these goods were sold to Russian partners by third-country entities and sent directly from the EU to Russia! This cannot be allowed to continue.

Poor Enforcement of Sanctions is a critical issue.

One of the critical issues we need to resolve is the need for more enforcement and consistency in enforcing sanctions at the national level.

Because while it is at the EU level, we establish the sanctions, the EU member states are responsible for enforcing the sanctions. Consequently, across the member states of the EU, there are significant differences in the type and severity of penalties for different sanctions violations. 

While there are signs that member states enforce sanctions more than before, so far, it has only been individual cases of enforcement, at most. It’s not a general tendency across the EU or even at a national level.

Governments need to inform more about their enforcement efforts so businesses can be better informed about the risks and real-life examples of the consequences of sanctions evasion. There needs to be more transparency about investigations on sanctions violations and fines imposed. 

There is still much work left to make the necessary improvements to the EU sanctions framework to tighten and enforce existing sanctions. 

We need to close the legal loopholes and increase cooperation inside the EU to make sanctions work properly.  We also need to cooperate with third (non-EU) countries to ensure alignment on sanctions regimes to avoid differences between sanctions regimes enable an evasion of EU sanctions.

Stepping up our sanctions enforcement game with new legislation.

The EU Commission has proposed to oblige Member States to criminalise violation of EU sanctions and set common penalties. However, this still needs to become EU law. Already in January 2023, I discussed this proposal with Commissioner Reynders, and he asked the European Parliament to speed up our part of the legislative process.  

The EU has created the new position of EU Sanctions Envoy, whose role is to ensure continuous, high-level discussions with third countries to avoid sanctions evasion. 

The EU has widened the arsenal of legal tools to limit sanctions evasion. In particular, as a last resort measure, it can prohibit the sale, supply, transfer or export of certain goods and technology to whole third countries that are at risk of being used for circumvention. However, these tools have yet to be used. 

How is the enlargement process going?

The Commission will publish its annual Enlargement report on Ukraine on the 8th of November. The progress report is a key step in the bloc’s decision on whether to start accession talks with Kyiv. In that document, according to Politico, the European Commission will likely recommend opening accession negotiations with Ukraine (and Moldova) — conditioned on more progress in certain areas, from building a solid and independent judiciary to protecting minority rights and implementing anti-corruption measures. Based on the Commission’s assessment, then EU leaders will discuss whether to open formal membership accession talks with Ukraine at their meeting in mid-December. Any enlargement decisions require the backing of all 27 EU countries.

What is the total support given to Ukraine? According to EU data, as of October 2023, EU and member state support to Ukraine totals over €65 billion in military, financial, humanitarian, and emergency assistance and reaches over €82 billion when we include the EU funding for Ukrainian refugees in EU countries.

What we need to improve EU-Ukraine Collaboration

We need to continue our collaboration between the EU and Ukraine. I am happy to see that Ursula von der Leyen arrived today in Kyiv. This underlines the Union’s commitment to including Ukraine.

There are both practical and political tasks ahead of us, when we need to decide what specific military aid and security guarantees the EU need to provide to Ukraine and how the EU will improve its defence industry and ensure stable provision of military assistance. 

We also need to specify the new sanctions to be included in the 12th package, and ensure that they will be implemented effectively.

There is much to do, but we can do it with dedication and commitment. And we have to do it in order to ensure the safety, security and democracy of Europe.

Other of the MEPs Guildhall  interviewed

French MEPs Ms. Nathalie Loiseau, Mr. Stephan Sejourne and Mr. Rapahel Gluksmann, Lithuanian MEPs Mr. Petras Auštrevičius and Ms. Rasa Juknieviciene,  German MEPs Ms. Viola von Cramon Taubadel and Mr. Michael Gahler

Rumanian Vlad Georghe’s Interview with Guildhall News Agency: EU’s Military Aid Strategy for Ukraine and Countering Russian Attempts to Create Ukraine Fatigue in the EU

enlargement, European Commission, interview, Karen Melchior, military aid, ukraine

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