Belgium, (Brussels Morning Newspaper) European Commissioner for Internal Market, Thierry Breton, travelled to Germany on Thursday, where he met with government officials and defence industry manufacturers as part of his tour of EU defence industries.
The French Commissioner met with Defence State Secretary Benedikt Zimmer and exchanged views on the increased ammunition production for Ukraine and assessed the state of the EU’s security.
In Lower Saxony, the Commissioner visited a major defence equipment factory, Rheinmetall, together with Zimmer, where they talked with representatives of manufacturers in order to assess the needs of the defence industry.
Armin Papperger, CEO of Rheinmetall, told German newspaper Handelsblatt on the occasion of the Commissioner’s visit that Rheinmetall would be able to increase shell production at its factory to 700,000 shells per year within the next year and a half to meet the needs of the Ukrainian armed forces.
The EU is considering providing further tailored support, including “through EU funds, and addressing relevant bottlenecks”.
Breton’s visit follows the Commission’s announcement on Wednesday to “urgently boost EU defence industry capacities in ammunition production”.
The aim is to produce 1 million rounds of ammunition within one year — €500 million from the EU budget into EU shell factories to boost weapons manufacturing, matched with €500 million from EU countries.
“The Act in Support of Ammunition Production (ASAP) is unprecedented. We want to directly support, with EU money, the ramp-up of our defence industry for Ukraine and for our own security,” said Breton.
“Europe has a substantial, diversified defence production capacity. It does not have the scale today to meet the security needs of Ukraine and our Member States, but it certainly has the potential to do so,” he added.
Next week, Breton will complete his defence industry tour. These field visits have been driven by the Act in Support of Ammunition Production (ASAP) regulation, which aims at supporting the EU’s industry in ramping up its production capacities in ammunition and missiles.
“Our ammunition production industry in Europe is ready to increase the rate of production to 1 million rounds per year, and the Union must make it happen. This is one more step towards a concrete European sovereignty and an opportunity to support jobs for Europeans,” said MEP Nathalie Loiseau, Chair of the Subcommittee on Security and Defence.
In March, more than a dozen EU countries agreed to supply Ukraine with at least one million artillery shells over the next year — a plan worth €2bn in total.