Neighborhood and Enlargement Commissioner Olivér Várhelyi visited the six Western Balkan countries this week as the first of 651,000 BioNTech / Pfizer vaccines, shared and funded by the European Union, arrived In the region.
The vaccines are funded from the € 70 million package adopted by the Commission in December 2020 to help cover the cost of vaccines, guaranteed under the EU’s advance purchase agreements for Western Balkan partners. Austria facilitated the sharing of these EU-funded vaccines through legal arrangements with the producer and each partner in the Western Balkans. The overall distribution among countries is based on epidemiological needs.
The Austrian ambassadors were present at the meetings between the leaders of the WB countries and Várhelyi, who thanked Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg and also Chancellor Sebastian Kurz.
Schallenberg also arrived in Sarajevo at the same time as the commissioner, stressful during his meeting with the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bisera Turković, that the EU supported the territorial integrity of the country and that the stories of “non-papers” proposing changes to the borders were negative.
In Montenegro, where the first 2,430 doses arrived on May 4, Várhelyi also commented on the country’s recent request for assistance in repaying a loan from China.
“Of course, it is not for us to consider the financial situation of the country. The government has asked us for help and that is exactly what we are doing. But it is not for us to repay the loans instead of the others. And I think that is not what the government is asking us to do, but rather to consider other financial arrangements. I can’t tell you yet if we can do it or not, we are thinking about it. We are considering different options and we are communicating with the government ”, Várhelyi mentionned, Vijesti report.
Várhelyi began his visit to Serbia on Monday, where he thanked the country because he had not only been able to organize a very successful vaccination campaign, but had also delivered nearly 100,000 doses of vaccine to the region.
During his meeting with the Prime Minister of North Macedonia Zoran Zaev in Skopje, the Commissioner also spoke of the efforts to reach an agreement in the Council of the EU in order to officially start the accession negotiations with the country. ASAP, he tweeted.
On the other hand, during his visit to Albania on Wednesday, Várhelyi said that the country had fulfilled all EU conditions and is ready to start accession negotiations, but North Macedonia has yet to obtain approval from Bulgaria. Albania is therefore ready to sit at the first intergovernmental conference with the EU, according to the European Commission.
Várhelyi concluded his trip to the region of Kosovo, where 4,680 doses of vaccine arrived yesterday.