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To have peace, Europe must prepare for war, EU council president says

EU leaders meet in Brussels

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Europe must strengthen its defence capabilities and shift to a "war economy" mode in response to the threat posed by Russia, European Council President Charles Michel said on Monday.

In an op-ed published in European newspapers and the Euractiv website, Michel - who will chair a meeting of EU leaders on Thursday to discuss support for Ukraine - said Europe needed to take responsibility for its own security and not rely heavily on the support of countries such as the U.S.

"If we do not get the EU's response right and do not give Ukraine enough support to stop Russia, we are next. We must therefore be defence-ready and shift to a 'war economy' mode," Michel said.

"If we want peace, we must prepare for war," he said.

Michel said while Europe had made strides since Moscow's February 2022 invasion of Ukraine - including by increasing military manufacturing capacity by 50% - far more was needed and, for decades, Europe had not invested enough in its security and defence.

Michel urged EU countries to ensure Ukraine received what it needed on the battlefield - including by spending EU money on military equipment, and using windfall profits from Russia’s immobilised assets to purchase arms for Ukraine.

He urged countries to facilitate investments in defence - including by considering changing the mandate of the EU lending arm, the European Investment Bank, to allow it to support Europe's defence industry.

EU countries approved an agreement on Monday to increase the EU's support for Ukraine's armed forces by 5 billion euros ($5.4 billion) - amid warnings that Kyiv's forces need more resources to hold the line against a larger Russian army as a $60 billion U.S. aid package for Ukraine is being held up by Congress.

($1 = 0.9199 euros)

(Reporting by Kate Abnett; Editing by Stephen Coates)