STUTTGART, Germany — Eighteen European nations have teamed up under the European Defence Agency to jointly buy ammunition, the latest move in the European Union’s race to replenish Ukraine’s dwindling arsenal of artillery shells, officials in Brussels announced on Monday.

Defense and foreign ministers for 17 European Union nations, along with Norway, signed an agreement March 20 committing to a joint “fast-track” acquisition of one million rounds of 155-millimeter artillery within the next two years, and a seven-year process to procure multiple types and calibers of ammunition to replenish national stocks of member nations.

The announcement follows a trifecta of proposals laid out by EU foreign policy and defense chief Josep Borrell ahead of an informal meeting of the bloc’s defense ministers in Stockholm on March 7-8.

The new plan will provide “a fast-track procedure, allowing for the tendering process to be simplified and contracts put into place at short notice,” reads an EDA statement.

Brussels is setting aside €1 billion ($1 billion) for the short-term initiative, which asks member nations to give Ukraine whatever artillery munitions they have left in their stocks and additionally route newly ordered top-ups to Kyiv. Another €1 billion is available for the seven-year joint acquisition plan. Member states will be reimbursed for their purchases via the European Peace Facility (EPF), the EU’s off-budget, military aid mechanism.

Estonia, an EU member, has for the past few months urged the rest of the bloc to ramp up defense manufacturing to replenish national stockpiles of ammunition sent to Ukraine’s frontlines since Russia’s full-scale invasion began last February.

Estonian Minister of Defence Hanno Pevkur hailed the Monday announcement in a statement. “Above all, Ukraine needs ammunition right now, and today we put the clear objective in writing – to send at least one million 155 mm caliber rounds of ammunition to Ukraine within the next 12 months,” Pevkur said.

The current signatories include: Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Cyprus, Czechia, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Sweden, and Norway. Additional EU members have already expressed an intent to join the initiative in the future, following national procedures, per the EDA.

Borrell noted in Stockholm that the EU had already provided €450 million in reimbursements to member nations who have sent ammunition to Ukraine since the start of the war.

“Today, it’s a high-intensity war, with a lot of shots, tens of thousands every day,” he said, noting that ammunition deliveries are flowing into Ukraine daily, but they must also accelerate. “The issue is, it has to increase, more and quicker.”

“We are in war times, and we have to have – sorry to say – a war mentality,” he added. “I would prefer to talk about peace. … Unhappily, I have to talk about ammunition.”

Vivienne Machi is a reporter based in Stuttgart, Germany, contributing to Defense News' European coverage. She previously reported for National Defense Magazine, Defense Daily, Via Satellite, Foreign Policy and the Dayton Daily News. She was named the Defence Media Awards' best young defense journalist in 2020.

More In Europe