France, Poland spar over ammunition plan for Ukraine – report
A 155 mm artillery shell case, a video grab

European Union ambassadors failed on Wednesday to agree on joint purchases of ammunition for Ukraine as France and Poland clashed, Politico reports, citing diplomatic sources.

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The dispute revolves over who would be awarded the production contracts – just local firms, or also competitors elsewhere.

The plan, officially endorsed earlier this month, is that EU countries will jointly help deliver Ukraine up to one million artillery shells in the next twelve months. While EU leaders have approved the scheme and earmarked EUR 2 billion to fund it, countries have since run into disagreements over how to spend the EUR 1 billion set aside for joint contracts.

France insists that the money be restricted to EU manufacturers, without including companies in places like the US and UK. A Polish official replied that "France was only making the current negotiations harder," Politico reports.

Sweden reportedly proposed a compromise limiting the upcoming contracts to "economic operators established in the Union and Norway," but including a line that the directive should not set a precedent.

"Some diplomats felt the new text was moving too much in the French direction", according to Politico, while others "grumbled" that it was opening new questions about which companies or subcontractors should be involved.

One of the key concerns for EU officials remains persistent concerns that Europe’s defence industry may not be able to cope with delivering one million shells to Ukraine in 12 months, according to one of the diplomats cited by Politico. 

"So the more restrictive language we include now, the harder it will get to reach our goal," another added.

The publication reports that EU firms need the guarantee of incoming orders before they pay to build out their manufacturing capabilities. "It’s back to the point of what you prioritize: speed or European industry," one diplomat explained.

Negotiations will now likely continue next week, meaning EU foreign ministers will not have a deal in hand when they meet on Monday in Luxembourg, Politico notes.