Today, the European Commission and the High Representative set out plans for a robust and targeted EU response to support partner countries’ efforts in tackling the coronavirus pandemic. The EU’s collective action will focus on addressing the immediate health crisis and resulting humanitarian needs, strengthening partner countries’ health, water and sanitation systems and their research and preparedness capacities to deal with the pandemic, as well as mitigating the socioeconomic impact. To underpin these actions, the EU will secure financial support to partner countries amounting to more than €15.6 billion from existing external action resources.
The President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, commented: “The virus knows no borders. This global challenge needs strong international cooperation. The European Union is working tirelessly to fight the pandemic. We all know that only together we can stop the worldwide spread of the coronavirus.” High Representative/Vice-President Josep Borrell, added: “The coronavirus pandemic requires united, global action in response. The European Union and its Member States are playing their part in tackling this health crisis and its severe consequences – at home and abroad.”
The EU’s response follows a ‘Team Europe’ approach, aimed at saving lives by providing quick and targeted support to our partners to face this pandemic. It combines resources from the EU, its Member States and financial institutions, in particular the European Investment Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. The first Team Europe packages are already being implemented in the Western Balkans and in the immediate neighbourhood.
Delivering the EU global response package in practice:
€502 million for Emergency response actions focused amongst others providing immediate humanitarian support in affected countries and increasing production in Europe of personal protective equipment and medical devices. €2.8 billion to support research, health and water systems, the EU is, amongst others, supporting partner countries in building resilient, responsive health and social protection systems and supporting research on diagnostics, treatment and prevention. €12.28 billion to address the economic and social consequences.
Team Europe package for the Western Balkans and Albania
In the Western Balkans, the EU has already mobilised considerable funds for immediate support to the health sector amounting to €38 million. In addition, over €374 million has been reallocated to help the partners mitigate the socio-economic impact of the pandemic. It will help to address the socio-economic impact of the outbreak in particular for the most affected businesses, including companies working in tourism and transportation sectors. Additional €290 million will also help with the socio-economic recovery of the whole region. And procurement of small-scale health infrastructure and equipment is about to be launched for €90 million in Turkey. In total, the EU will support with €800 million our Western Balkan partners and Turkey to address the coronavirus.
Neighbourhood and Enlargement Commissioner, Olivér Várhelyi, said: “As part of our global response to the coronavirus pandemic we are redirecting over €3.8 billion of foreseen funds for the Western Balkans and our immediate neighbours to the East and to the South, to where their real needs are today: for urgent response to the health crisis, to strengthen the health systems and to mitigate the socio-economic impact of the pandemic. We share a continent and we can only succeed together.”
EU Ambassador to Albania, Luigi Soreca, stressed: “Today the European Commission stepped up to the global challenges posed by the coronavirus outbreak with a very ambitious response package of more than €15.6 billion. While the European Union is doing the utmost to support its citizens, it is also our duty to assist our partners and friends. The impact on the most fragile countries, especially in the Western Balkans, is likely to be dramatic. We will continue to work together with Albanian authorities to tackle those shared challenges.”
In Albania, 4 million EUR have already been contracted for the supply of immediate life-saving medical equipment. The EU has partnered with the United Nations Office for Project Services so that this support delivers the needed items as soon as possible (ventilators, ambulances, mobile x-rays, Intensive Care Units beds and protective material and sanitisers for healthcare workers). The EU will also provide 46.7 million EUR to support social and economic recovery
Western Balkans countries have been associated to EU initiatives such as the Joint Procurement Agreement for medical equipment and the European rapid alert system for communicable diseases. Countries negotiating their accession can also benefit from the EU Solidarity Fund. The EU has also welcomed candidate countries in the Western Balkans to the EU’s Health Security Committee. The Commission will also mobilise soon macro-financial assistance (MFA) for Western Balkan and neighbouring countries with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).