Socialist and Democrats in the European Parliament call on the Commission and the member states to include the Western Balkan countries in actions taken to contain the outbreak of the coronavirus in Europe. The EU should allow them to redirect unspent pre-accession funds (IPA) to fighting the coronavirus crisis, consider mobilising the margins from other external financial instruments, and allow Western Balkan countries to buy medical equipment, like face masks or ventilators from member states.
S&D vice-president responsible for foreign affairs, Kati Piri, said:
“Like everywhere in Europe, the number of confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the countries of the Western Balkans continues to rise. We are in it together. The virus does not know borders or nationalities. If we want to effectively fight coronavirus, we must not forget about countries in the middle of Europe.
“As Socialists and Democrats we urge the European Commission and the member states to include the Western Balkan countries in our common European response, and in measures to prevent and combat the effects of the epidemic.”
Tonino Picula, S&D coordinator in the committee on foreign affairs, and the EP rapporteur on enlargement in the Western Balkans, said:
“We must not leave the Western Balkan countries alone to cope with this extraordinary human and economic crisis caused by the coronavirus. The first proof of solidarity would be to help them to ensure that their health systems are better equipped to contain and treat the disease. They are often considerably underfunded and lacking medical professionals who emigrated. Therefore, the Western Balkans should be excluded from the new ‘export authorisation scheme for protective equipment’ for third countries, and allowed to buy vital medical equipment such as face masks on the EU market.
“We also need flexibility for the IPA pre-accession funds to make money available for fighting the coronavirus. Like the member states, the Western Balkan countries should be allowed to redirect unspent funds to buy tests or protective medical equipment, or take other measures to mitigate the effects of the coronavirus epidemic.
“Despite current extraordinary circumstances, the enlargement process should continue with the enhanced pace put in place this year thanks to the new accession methodology. We welcome Monday’s green light form the Dutch Parliament and call on the EU to start negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia as soon as possible.”