European Commissioner for Enlargement and Neighbourhood Relations Oliver Varhelyi started the visit to the Western Balkan region in Belgrade. The tour comes at the time the first vaccines financed by European Union and facilitated by Austria are coming to the region.
Commissioner Varhelyi visited the Public Health Institute Milan Jovanović Batut, where he was given a tour of the premises – vaccine refrigerators, triage containers, and he met some of the 200 health workers whose engagement was financed by the EU.
“Nowadays, everybody is focused on one issue – when can I get vaccinated? – and we want to help the region to make it happen. We want to help the region be safe and create pandemic resilience and that is why I am very happy that we have been able to start delivering 651,000 doses to the region in a short time of two weeks”, said Commissioner Varhelyi, who also thanked Serbia not only on the successful vaccination campaign, but on sharing vaccines with the region.
“I thank the Commissioner for recognising and transmitting and further promoting Serbia in European circles and for conveying truthfully and objectively what Serbia has done, both for our citizens and for the region”, said Minister for European Integration Jadranka Joksimovic, who also added that by helping the region, Serbia has shown the European values – solidarity and humanity.
“The COVID 19 pandemic has shown the importance of cooperation at European and global level. EU support for the purchase of refrigerators, employment of professional and administrative staff, as well as giving donations of vaccines contribute to the success of the vaccination process in the Republic of Serbia”, said Acting Director of the Batut Institut Verica Jovanovic.
As announced by the European Commission and Austria on 20 April, in total 651,000 BioNTech/Pfizer doses will be delivered to the region in weekly instalments from the beginning of May to August. These vaccines will help to accelerate the vaccination campaigns, to ensure all frontline medical workers and some of the most vulnerable groups are inoculated.
The vaccines are funded from the €70 million package adopted by the Commission in December 2020 to help cover the cost of vaccines, secured under the EU’s advance purchase agreements for the Western Balkan partners.
Austria has facilitated the sharing of these EU funded vaccines through legal arrangements with the producer and each Western Balkan partner. The overall distribution between countries is based on the epidemiological needs. These vaccines come on top of those provided by COVAX, where the EU is one of the top contributors with close to €2.5 billion from Team Europe (EU and its Member States).
The EU has donated 66 million EUR to Serbia in the COVID 19 pandemic fight. This aid included medical and protective equipment, respirators, ambulances, hiring of heath staff etc. The EU will in the next period also help in the mitigation of economic consequences of the COVID 19 crisis.
Commissioner Varhelyi will continue his trip around the region by traveling to Sarajevo on Tuesday. While in the region, he will discuss with the authorities the response to the pandemic as well as the EU’s support in this context.