The Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament has asked the European Commission and EU Member States to involve countries of the Western Balkan region in efforts to curb the coronavirus pandemic in Europe. The EU should allow candidate and potential candidate countries spend unspent IPA funds on combating coronaviruses and to consider mobilizing a part of other external financial instruments funds. In addition, Western Balkan countries should be allowed to purchase medical equipment such as masks and respirators from Member States.
As one of the initiators, Tonino Picula, Croatian MEP, S&D's foreign policy coordinator and Parliamentary Rapporteur for enlargement in Western Balkans said, following requests sent to the European Commission, that the first proof of solidarity would be to help our closest neighbours to better equip healthcare systems to help control and treat the infection.
"We must not leave the Western Balkan countries alone to deal with this extraordinary human and economic crisis caused by the coronavirus. Their health systems are too often underfunded and lack the health care workers who emigrated. Therefore, the Western Balkans must be excluded from the new regime of "authorization of export of protective equipment" to third countries and must be enabled to procure protective equipment in the European Union", Picula said.
"The flexibility of the IPA pre-accession funds is of utmost importance so that these countries have enough money available to fight coronaviruses. Like the Member States, the Western Balkan countries should be able to divert unspent money to buy tests and protective equipment, as well as to take other measures necessary to mitigate the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. Despite the current exceptional circumstances, the enlargement process must continue with the enhanced dynamics enabled by the new negotiation method. We welcome the Dutch Parliament's decision on Monday, giving the EU the green light to start accession negotiations with Albania and Northern Macedonia as soon as possible", conclude Picula following the request of his parliamentary group sent to the Commission and the Member States.