EU supporting neighbors in times of COVID-19
The pandemic and its aftermath are likely to take up a big part of every negotiation and future engagement. As shown below in the cases of the Eastern Partnership and the Western Balkans this can be key for the relationship of the EU with its eastern neighbours.
On 11 May 2020 the Council approved the current policy framework, including the set of 20 deliverables for 2020. Within this framework it noted with appreciation the Joint Communication of the Eastern Partnership beyond 2020: reinforcing resilience – notably in the context of the current COVID-19 pandemic. It appreciated the European approach of Team Europe putting forward a support package to help the partner countries tackle the crisis.
The European Commission has reallocated €140 million for the most immediate needs in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, the Republic of Moldova, and Ukraine. In addition, it will redirect the use of existing instruments worth up to €700 million to help mitigate the socio-economic impact of the coronavirus crisis.
Moreover, on 20 may 2020 the Council adopted a decision to provide up to €3 billion of Macro-Financial Assistance to ten enlargement and neighbourhood partners in the form of loans. This will help both countries from the Eastern Partnership as well as from the Western Balkans to cope with the economic fallout of the pandemic.
Likewise, the EU Western Balkans Summit took place – online – on 6 May 2020. The EU leaders have adopted the Zagreb declaration, with which the Western Balkans partners have aligned themselves. In this declaration the EU and the Western Balkans are committed to fighting the coronavirus and its effects together. The EU is determined to further intensify its engagement at all levels to support the region's political, economic and social transformation. Once the immediate measures to contain the pandemic are over, the Commission is invited to come forward with an economic and investment plan to better connect the economies of the Western Balkans with the EU.
The EU has mobilized a package of over €3.3 billion to the benefit of the Western Balkans. This includes reallocations of the current IPA budget (immediate support for the health sector, support to address social and economic recovery needs and an economic reactivation package), Macro-Financial Assistance and a loan package by the EIB.