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17 Jan, 2024 18:24

EU commissioner criticizes Germany over Ukraine aid

Berlin is trying to “go solo” and bypass the EU’s weapons program, Thierry Breton has alleged
EU commissioner criticizes Germany over Ukraine aid

EU Commissioner Thierry Breton has lashed out at Germany for announcing a plan to arm Ukraine without going through the bloc’s common arms transfer mechanism. Moreover, Breton added, Berlin’s apparent effort to involve other countries in its plan to go solo and avoid Brussels “hasn’t fooled anyone.”

Speaking at a press conference in Luxembourg last week, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz announced that his government would fork over more than €7 billion ($7.6 billion) in military aid to Ukraine this year, more than doubling the amount originally allocated in Germany’s 2024 budget.

Scholz also called on Germany's “allies in the European Union to strengthen their efforts” to support Kiev, a remark that an EU diplomat told the Telegraph was likely aimed at France, whose donations to Ukraine are dwarfed by those of Germany.

“Today we see that Germany is trying to go solo, it hasn't fooled anyone, and in particular it is trying to stop supporting the European Peace Facility,” Breton told reporters in Paris on Monday. 

The European Peace Facility (EPF) is a €12 billion common fund used by the EU to jointly finance foreign militaries and reimburse its own members who send arms to foreign conflicts. France has availed itself extensively of the scheme while contributing €544 million in bilateral aid to Ukraine since February 2022, while Germany has sent nearly 40 times more bilateral military aid – €17.1 billion – in the same period.

European officials told Politico on Monday that Germany is frustrated with France for using the EPF to replace weapons donated to Kiev from its own inventories instead of purchasing arms from its well-developed defense industry and sending them bilaterally. 

German diplomats have also argued that Berlin’s contributions to the EPF should be reduced due to the volume of military aid it has sent to Ukraine outside of the scheme, the news site reported.

From Kiev’s perspective, the EPF is a less reliable source of military aid than direct transfers from individual Western states. Individual EU member states can veto military aid packages from the fund, as Hungary has done on multiple occasions, arguing that the money would be better spent elsewhere. While the fund has a ceiling of €12 billion, less than half of this amount has been used to jointly purchase arms for Ukraine.

Germany is the world’s second-largest provider of military aid to Ukraine, behind only the US. However, with the country’s economy reeling from soaring energy costs following Scholz’ decision to embargo Russian fuel imports, and with no resolution in sight to a €17 billion budget deficit, the chancellor’s approval has plummeted.

A survey conducted by the INSA polling institute earlier this month showed Scholz losing against all of his major rivals in hypothetical elections, while 64% of Germans want him to resign from office.