First EU Funded Vaccines for the Region and Support Package for Serbia
Commissioner for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Olivér Várhelyi travelled to the Western Balkans last week as the first COVID-19 vaccines, shared and funded by the European Union, arrived to the region. 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.
Enlargement and Neighbourhood Commissioner Olivér Várhelyi said: “I am travelling to the Western Balkans to pass a clear message: We care! We care about our partners, and we care about their health care workers and the most vulnerable. The delivery of the vaccines confirms our continuous commitment to provide support, as we have been doing since the outbreak of the pandemic. Stronger together!”
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 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).
EU Support Package to Serbia
Ahead of the visit, the officials from the European Union and Serbia signed a grant package for Serbia worth over €86 million. The grant package will focus on supporting Serbia in protecting the environment – in particular safe drinking water, supporting the tourism sector and to support small and medium sized enterprises.
The signature of the financing agreement in Palata Srbije by Minister for European Integration Jadranka Joksimović and the Ambassador of the European Union to Serbia, Sem Fabrizi was attended by President Aleksandar Vućić and the Ambassadors of the Member States of the European Union. The EU Commissioner for EU Enlargement Negotiations Olivér Várhelyi was tuned into the ceremony via a pre-recorded video message from Brussels: “The EU support however goes well beyond the vaccinations, focusing also on mid- and long-term recovery. Today’s package will further foster the support to the economy, which has been hit by the crisis. Small and medium sized enterprises are the backbone of the society and we wish to continue our success story with them, as we have been supporting this sector with great results for many years. It also ties well in with our Economic and Investment Plan for the Western Balkans, which aims to boost the recovery, speed up the convergence with the EU as well as the reforms.“
The structure of the €86 million support package to Serbia:
- €17 million to support competitiveness of small and medium sized enterprises, particularly in the tourism sector
- The environment and energy pillar: €45 millions to kick-start the Green Agenda in Serbia, preparing improved waste management in Novi Sad, installing water monitoring units for the water districts of Danube, Sava and Morava river basins, as well as air quality monitoring stations to extend the network. €9 million in grants for energy efficiency investments in public buildings reducing costs, CO2 emissions and improving the quality and services for the citizens using the buildings.
- €14 million Euros will be dedicated to support the reforms on governance, acquis reforms and Serbia’s participation to EU programmes
Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić: “Today, we received €86 million of non-refundable aid from the EU, these are funds that are purposefully spent for programs and projects that have been agreed in advance. These are projects that are of a structural type, from the development and progress of our education, our entrepreneurship, our innovation opportunities, environmental protection, to the progress of the rule of law. Thank you very much, the EU, we still have a lot of work ahead of us!“
Minister of European Integration, Jadranka Joksimović: “The largest part of the support, which is €45.5 million, goes to the sector of environmental protection and achieving the goals of the Green Agreement.” These funds will include the construction of wastewater collection and treatment systems in Čačak, Loznica and Sokobanja. This support will further include preparatory activities that should lead to the construction of a waste management plant in Novi Sad.”