Zovko: “The EU should support the Western Balkans in their combat against the coronavirus”
Brussels 19 March 2020,
Member of the European Parliament Željana Zovko urges the European Commission to support the countries in the Western Balkans with their fight against the corona virus. The EPP vice coordinator for Foreign Affairs welcomes the European Commission’s proposal to amend the existing rules on the use European Solidarity Fund (EUSF) in response to the current coronavirus pandemic. However, Zovko also stressed the need to provide additional financial and material assistance to all countries in the Western Balkans and expand existing relief programs. “The coronavirus knows no borders. We cannot be selective and should support all our partners in the region.”
As IPA III co-rapporteur, Zovko calls for the use of unspent pre-accession funds from the current financial instrument to combat this crisis. “We have to send our partner countries in the Western Balkans the important message that they are not alone in combating the coronavirus pandemic. Redirecting unused budget can allow the countries to obtain the necessary medical equipment and limit the effects of the virus to the minimum.”
Zovko also proposes to extend the reach of the European Civil Protection Mechanism to cover the entire region of the Western Balkans. “With these measures, we don’t only protect the population in the region, but also the European citizens. Every case of covid-19 in the direct proximity of the Union is a threat, whether it is in a negotiating country or not”.
The EU Solidarity Fund has been in existence since 2002, but has only been used in situations of major disasters caused by natural events such as floods, storms, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, forest fires or droughts. Today, the Commission announced to start building a stockpile of medical equipment via the RescEU program. These support tools will be distributed among the EU Member States and the signatory states of the European Civil Protection Mechanism.