Press Releases Ukraine: Opening remarks by High Representative at the EU-Ukraine Defence Industries Forum

Ukraine: Opening remarks by High Representative at the EU-Ukraine Defence Industries Forum

Good morning to everybody,

A warm welcome to all of you and, in particular, to our Ukrainian guests. Minister [for Strategic Industries of Ukraine, Oleksandr Kamyshin], and all of you, thank you for being here. I know how difficult it is and dangerous it is for you to travel, especially these days when the attacks of Russia against Ukraine continue.

Russia’s forces are putting a lot of pressure on the Ukrainian lines in the Donbas, bringing destruction, escalating its attacks against railway infrastructure, energy grids. They are targeting mainly energy systems, dams and now also gas storages. All of that is critical to Ukrainian defence.

Cities like Kharkiv and Odesa – beautiful cities that I visited a few months ago – are constantly shelled [with] ballistic missiles and drones. Putin wants to bomb the inhabitants in order to [drive] them out. And, as you know, every day, civilians die or get injured in Ukraine.

It happens because Ukraine lacks air defence and artillery ammunition. We have to increase our capacities to deliver the military aid that we promised.

The decisions to support Ukraine, as much as the postponement of the implementation of these decisions, have consequences – now and tomorrow, for Ukraine and for us.

This should guide our strategic thinking. We should be strategic in thinking [about] what are the challenges that Ukraine is facing. It is a matter of responsibility for the Europeans.

Our ability to deliver – more and quicker – missiles, artillery ammunition and [anti-]aircraft systems more massively and quickly to Ukraine is a matter of life and death for thousands of Ukrainian civilians and their military personnel.

It is [also] our security which is at stake.

Yes, the military aid passed by the US Congress is much needed. That is positive news, but we have to do our part. We have to do our part.

I know that several initiatives by EU Member States are underway. The US military assistance will come – they have lost six months – but we have to do our part.

This war, with the groundbreaking role of 21st century technology like drones – drones destroying the most advanced tanks – is revolutionising the warfare. And we have learned a lot from the Ukrainians in this regard.

I was in Ukraine last February and I visited one of the more than 200 Ukrainian drone producers. I saw how “necessity powers innovation”. Drones and electronic warfare “Made in Ukraine” could become world leaders. They have been reacting because they have their needs there. So, yes, necessity powers innovation. Ukraine is a clear example of that.

We’ve gathered [at] this Forum, and we should leave this Forum with concrete proposals to support these Ukrainian producers and innovators.

The cooperation we want to inspire today must indeed go both ways. Europe’s defence ecosystem has a lot to offer, but also, has a lot to learn from Ukraine.

We need to step up structurally our industrial defence capacities. This is key in a long war of attrition like this one.

This is why, when presenting recently the first European Defence Industrial Strategy, we proposed to start immediately working on the integration of Ukrainian defence companies into the European Union’s defence industrial ecosystem.

We have to integrate the Ukrainian defence capacity, from the industrial point of view, with ours.

In concrete terms, this means particularly to promote joint procurement between European and Ukrainian defence industries.

There is a lot of capacity in Ukraine, [but] they need funding.

That is why this Forum gathers us today. It should serve to identify concrete opportunities for joint initiatives between Ukrainian and European companies, boosting Ukrainian industrial production, helping Ukraine to rearm, and funding it.

We do not start from zero. A lot of cooperation is already happening. Several European companies recently entered into [joint] ventures in Ukraine. Often to move repair and maintenance closer to the front, but also to produce artillery ammunition.

Yes, some things have been done already. We do not start from scratch, but we need to go further.

We [will] open a new EU Innovation Office in Kyiv later this year to facilitate matchmaking between Ukrainian start-ups and [European Union] defence companies.

We associated the European Defence Agency to this Hub in the field of autonomous systems for military logistics.

But I repeat: financing is key in all these efforts.

We just established a new Ukraine Assistance Fund – with an envelope of €5 billion within the European Peace Facility.

And once EU Member States have agreed on using the revenues stemming from Russia’s immobilised assets, these resources will be channelled towards Ukraine, to address their pressing military needs and directly to the Ukrainian defence industry.

This is my firm intention. This money has to be channelled to Ukraine in order to make the Ukrainians able to produce by themselves, in their territory, close to their needs – saving transportation costs and [avoiding] delays.

We have to be more creative in exploring new ways of delivering military assistance to Ukraine.

Denmark has shown the example, starting the path of directly investing in the Ukrainian defence industry. This is the way to go. Purchasing equipment from Ukrainian companies or from European and Ukrainian joint ventures established in Ukraine, is an option that we will explore together with the Member States.

Yes, like nearly everything else in this war, innovation and audacity are essential to prevail. If the military equipment that Ukraine needs can be rapidly produced by the Ukrainian defence industry, I say let’s buy from them. Let’s help them produce at home. And let’s provide the financial capacity to buy this production.

This is a common endeavour. Our industrial cooperation should be a core element of our cooperation. So, let’s work together today. You are more than 140 firms, coming from 25 different states.

Everybody here knows what is at stake. Let’s not lose time, and get out of here with concrete proposals, concrete matching between one side and the other, the big alliance between the Europeans and Ukrainians.

The purpose is to make Ukraine able to resist the invasion by boosting their industrial capacity, using what they already have, increasing it by funding it and by buying their production. Technology on one side, and financial capabilities on the other side have to be together, in order to make Ukrainians able to have the military capacities to resist.

It is their existence [which is at stake], but it is also ours.

So, use this opportunity, dear friends. I repeat: 140 firms coming from 25 states. Use this opportunity to link your capacities with Ukrainian capacities, and we will provide funding for you to work together.

Thank you.


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