Candidate members to receive €3.3bn from EU amid coronavirus

4 May 20

The EU is sending billions of euros to the Western Balkans to help the region through the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic.

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European Commission building

The European Commission building

 

Many of the countries are candidates for membership of the EU, and the European Commission said it wanted to ensure those economies recover so accession work can continue.

“We have a special responsibility in this pandemic to assist our partners in the Western Balkans, as their future clearly lies in the European Union,” said Commission president Ursula von der Leyen.

“The EU is mobilising a substantial financial package, confirming its strong solidarity [with the region].”

Around half of the €3.3bn will come from the European Investment Bank, with the rest including €38m of support for the health sector, €389m for “social and economic recovery”, €455m for “economic reactivation” and €750m of aid to assist countries with their balance of payments crises caused by the pandemic.

“Together we will overcome this crisis and recover,” said von der Leyen.

“And beyond that, we will continue to support the region, including with the reforms needed on their EU path, as the recovery will only work effectively if the countries keep delivering on their commitments.”

Advanced accession talks for Albania and North Macedonia were expected to have begun by now, but a small group of EU members led by France blocked the move to do so earlier this year.

French president Emmanuel Macron said he would wait for more evidence of progress on reforms to the region’s legal, democratic and economic systems.

Later this year, the Commission will publish an Economic and Investment Plan for the region, including details of a “substantial” package of investment – the “lion’s share” of €14.5bn, it said in a statement – over the 2021-27 period.

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