As part of the global response to the coronavirus outbreak, the European Commission has announced up to EUR 38 million in immediate support for the Western Balkans to tackle the health emergency caused by coronavirus, and reallocation of EUR 374 million to help the socio-economic recovery of the region.
“Europe is facing an unprecedented public health crisis, but even in these difficult times we will always be there for our Western Balkan partners, who belong in the EU. We will help our partners to cover their immediate needs for their health systems, as well as promote long-term measures to mitigate the socio-economic impact of the coronavirus crisis and support small- and medium-sized enterprises in the region”, said Commissioner for European Neighborhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations Olivér Várhelyi.
Statement published at the official website of the EU Office in Bosnia and Herzegovina reads that the Commission is responding to partners’ immediate needs by supporting the supply of medical devices and equipment, such as respirators, laboratory kits, masks, goggles, gowns, and safety suits.
“The EU will assist Albania and North Macedonia to cover the immediate needs of their public health systems with up to EUR four million each, Bosnia and Herzegovina with EUR seven million, while Montenegro will receive up to EUR three million, Kosovo up to EUR five million and up to EUR 15 million will go to Serbia, the most affected country until now”, the statement reads.
Head of the EU Delegation and EU Special Representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina Johann Sattler said that Bosnia and Herzegovina would receive a total of 7,000 coronavirus test kits on Tuesday, as well as 40 respirators over the next two weeks.
To help mitigate the socio-economic impact of the coronavirus, the EU will also redirect funds from the Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance (IPA) to help the recovery in the Western Balkan countries in the short and medium term. This will include support to the private sector, increasing social protection, with a specific attention to the vulnerable groups, and strengthening resilience in the public health sector.
“For this purpose, the Commission will mobilize up to EUR 46.7 million to support the social and economic recovery of Albania, EUR 73.5 million for Bosnia and Herzegovina, EUR 50 million for Montenegro, while North Macedonia will receive EUR 62 million, Serbia EUR 78.4 million and Kosovo will receive up to EUR 63 million”, the EC stated.
In addition, the Commission is also working with the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC) and secretariat of the Transport Community Treaty and the Central Europe Free Trade Agreement (CEFTA) to address issues affecting the supply and the facilitation of the movement of goods within the region, and between the region and the EU. To this end, the Commission has included EU-Western Balkans border-crossing points located along the Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T) in its Communication on ‘Green Lanes’ on March 23, 2020. The EU is now supporting the Western Balkans in expanding the green lanes within the region.