Small EU countries would encounter financial difficulty in helping Ukraine if the bloc were to halt a funding scheme that pays for arms and ammunition, Lithuania’s Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis told POLITICO.
The future of the fund is in limbo, as the attempt to carve out a new Ukraine assistance package worth €20 billion over four years from the European Peace Facility (EPF) remains unsettled thanks to opposition from Hungary.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán is threatening to hijack a December summit of EU leaders over the issue. That’s prompting some countries to contemplate ways to work around Budapest and keep aid flowing to Kyiv, including by sending direct financial aid via bilateral arrangements rather than EU structures like EPF.
“The problem is, if EPF is no longer continued … small countries like mine, we would be less able to assist Ukraine with the resources that we have,” Landsbergis said.
He warned that if countries have to finance aid from their own budgets, Lithuania would be forced “to purchase something with a limited amount that we have.” As well, waiting for reimbursement “puts us in the very end of a very long line, and that actually is against the interests of any European industry.”
He said it was “obvious” that worry is growing about EU political support for Ukraine.
“Look at the debates in FAC [the EU’s Foreign Affairs Council], in European Council, about the EPF, about the €20 billion, it’s all incredibly challenging,” he said. “At first it’s Hungary, now, more countries are doubtful whether there’s a path to go.”
Landsbergis stressed that Lithuania is ready to support “adaptations” to the EPF to make it more amenable to wobbling members.
“I understand that they might think — and then it’s reasonable thinking — that the rules might be more transparent, there would be more responsibility, more connectedness to the needs, actual needs, of Ukraine,” he said. “So I would advocate, and I’ve spoken about this in … European meetings, that we would support adaptation and hopefully this message is not lost on deaf ears.”
He drew a parallel between the joint procurement of ammunition for Ukraine and that of vaccines during the pandemic, which ensured equitable access to medicine.
“If the big guys were purchasing what they needed then we were just waiting for our turn — and we might be still waiting for the vaccines to arrive,” he said.
Source : Politico