European Union negotiators reached a deal in the early hours of Friday to accelerate the production of munition and missiles in Europe to urgently deliver Ukraine.
"We have a deal," Thierry Breton, the Commissioner for Internal Market, said on Twitter early on Friday.
"In only two months, Europe agreed on a historic programme ASAP to finance the ramp-up of its defence industrial base to support Ukraine and the security of Europe," he added.
Given the urgency in providing Ukraine with the weapons it needs to defend itself against the Russian invasion and successfully mount its counteroffensive, the Act in Support of Ammunition Production (ASAP), which was first proposed by the Commission in early May, was fast-tracked through the EU legislative process.
Margarita Robles, minister of defence for Spain, which currently holds the rotating presidency of the Council of the EU, said that the rapid deal "is yet another proof of the EU’s unwavering commitment to supporting Ukraine, strengthening the EU’s defence technological and industrial base, and ultimately ensuring the long term security and defence of EU citizens."
Commission Chief Ursula von der Leyen welcomed the agreement, saying it "will speed up the delivery of ammunition to Ukraine at this crucial stage of the war."
ASAP is part of the EU's three-track plan to provide Ukraine with the one million ammunition rounds it needs over the coming year and to replenish member states' quickly depleting stockpiles.
Under the first track, EU member states committed €1 billion worth of ammunition from their remaining stocks while track two provided for the joint orders of an additional €1 billion worth of ammunition.
ASAP, or track three, will see €500 million in EU funds dedicated to bolstering the bloc's industrial production capacities for ground-to-ground and artillery ammunition as well as missiles. It also introduces a temporary regulatory framework to address what the Commission has branded an "ammunition supply crisis."
The production obstacles stem from a combination of factors that date back to the fall of the Soviet Union and were abruptly exposed when Russia launched the invasion, such as chronically sluggish investment in defence, declining demand from public authorities, insufficient skilled personnel, slow permitting process and lack of access to raw materials.
In a notable move, the Commission's original proposal introduced the possibility of member states adding a financial "top-up" to ASAP by re-directing cohesion and COVID-19 recovery funds, a provision that was met with certain controversy.
Although negotiators deleted this provision during talks, Marc Botenga, a Belgian MEP from The Left group who took part in the process, was nevertheless very critical of the outcome, describing it as a "historical error".
"EU money urgently needed for research, health or climate infrastructure is now going to war economy shareholders. World upside down", he said.
He also argued that the Act is "illegal" and that it "violates" Article 41.2 of the EU Treaty which prohibits "expenditure arising from operations having military or defence implications" from being charged to the EU budget.
The Commission contests this interpretation because it considers ASAP to be an instrument to bolster the resilience of European industry.
The European Parliament is expected to hold a vote on the legislation during next week's plenary session. The text will be then sent back to member states for final approval before it enters into force.