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VERSAILLES, France — Not for the first time, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell appears to have jumped the gun when it comes to announcing military aid to Ukraine.
At an EU summit in Versailles, Borrell gave a clear impression that the leaders had agreed to use another €500 million from the European Peace Facility (EPF) — a fund for military assistance — to help Ukraine in its fight against Russia’s invasion.
That would come on top of €500 million in weapons and equipment from the fund that the EU agreed to give Ukraine on. February 27 — the first time the bloc had ever decided to supply arms to a country under attack.
“Yesterday I proposed this to the leaders. And the European Peace Facility will double its support with an additional €500 [milllion] more,” Borrell told reporters on Friday morning.
Asked if it was hard to convince EU member states to support the expansion of the EPF, Borrell replied: “No, not at all. Everybody was completely aware that we have to increase our military support to Ukraine, to continue putting pressure on Russia … So, €500 million more.”
But two of the EU’s most prominent national leaders, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, said the €500 million boost had not been part of their deliberations. And it was not mentioned in the leaders’ final statement.
Scholz told reporters at the end of the summit that “the issue was not the subject of our discussions or our decision-making.”
The chancellor sounded open to the general idea, saying he did not think Borrell had found anyone opposed to the EU getting more involved through the fund. But he made clear the €500 million was one possibility among many under consideration to assist Ukraine. “The Commission will then make proposals,” he said.
Rutte was blunter when asked if leaders had agreed to the measure “No, no, no,” he said. “I heard this story, so it might be that this is something [that] is playing out at the [European] Commission … but it has not been decided together.”
“We are trying to agree in such a fast process and on so many issues but this was not agreed upon in the conclusions of today,” Rutte said.
The premature pledge from Borrell — who has been criticized previously for using imprecise language — comes just a couple of weeks after he sparked international confusion by declaring that the EU would provide fighter jets to Ukraine.
He walked back that announcement the following day by saying transfers would come from individual EU countries rather than the bloc itself. But even that prospect soon collapsed, when Washington rejected a plan from Poland to get jets to Ukraine by using the U.S. as an intermediary.
On the possible €500 million boost to the EPF for Ukraine, European Council President Charles Michel also gave the impression on Friday that an agreement had been reached. Speaking in French at the summit’s closing news conference, he said that “the orientation has been taken to add an additional €500 million to the Peace Facility.”
Spokespeople for both Borrell and Michel later acknowledged the €500 million was a proposal on the table, rather than something that had been definitively agreed.
In their summit declaration, EU leaders said they “will support our partners through all available instruments, including through an increased use of the European Peace Facility,” but didn’t say anything on the size of that increase.
Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said the Peace Facility “is perceived as a positive instrument” by most capitals but acknowledged that there “was not a formal decision” to add €500 million.
Jacopo Barigazzi, Suzanne Lynch, David M. Herszenhorn, Antonia Zimmermann and Camille Gijs contributed reporting.