European Commissioner begins European defence industrial tour in Bulgaria
Thierry Breton, European Commissioner for the Internal Market, began his European defence industrial tour in Bulgaria on March 15, saying – against the background of Russia’s war on Ukraine – “we need to produce more and faster” to help Ukraine.
Breton said that the purpose of the tour was “to evaluate and accelerate the industrial ramp-up of our EU defence industry, notably for the much-needed ammunition”.
He was due to meet caretaker Defence Minister Dimitar Stoyanov, deputy economy and industry minister Irina Shtonova and to hold meetings in Sopot in northern Bulgaria with representatives of Bulgaria’s arms manufacturers.
In a video message at the start of his tour, Breton said that his tour followed discussions last week in Stockholm with EU defence ministers on how to enhance the bloc’s defence industry capacity.
He said that he would be visiting defence industry CEOS and management to discuss the needs of the industry, to better calibrate EU support in order to address potential bottlenecks.
“We need to produce more and faster,” said Breton, who is due to also visit Slovakia this week.
AFP reported that speaking on March 14, Breton said that the EU would make an effort to increase the production of ammunition destined for Ukraine by 15 manufacturers in 11 countries EU member states.
Under the Kiril Petkov government, that was in office when Russia’s current invasion of Ukraine began in February 2022 but left office in August last year, Bulgaria provided substantial amounts of military aid to Ukraine.
Bulgaria’s Parliament voted in May 2022 to supply “military-technical” help, but not arms, to Ukraine. However, towards the end of last year, Parliament voted by a large majority to request the government to supply arms to Ukraine.
The caretaker government appointed by President Roumen Radev, who opposes supplying arms to Ukraine, has been claiming that it has fulfilled this mandate. That claims is disputed.
On March 15, government information service said that at a meeting, the caretaker government had adopted a decision to ask the 49th National Assembly – which will be elected on April 2 – to ratify an additional agreement signed on January 3 between the defence ministries of Bulgaria and Ukraine, that amends the December 5 2022 agreement between the two ministries.
The government information service said that the January agreement “regulates the provision of subsequent assistance to the Ukrainian side to be carried out with subsequent agreements to the agreement of December 5 2022, which will be subject to ratification by the National Assembly of the Republic of Bulgaria”.
The move by the Radev-appointed caretaker government, against the background of it having claimed that it had fulfilled the late 2022 vote by Parliament, would appear to imply that the supply of any further weaponry to Ukraine would be subject to approval by the new Parliament, rather than accepting that last year’s decision by the National Assembly is of enduring effect.
(Photo: EC Audiovisual Service)
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