The EU package for western Balkans and Turkey is worth €800 million. This consists of the packages already announced of over €410 million for the western Balkans (see below) and €90 million for Turkey for the Facility for Refugees, a coordination mechanism set up in November 2015 that pools funds from existing EU budget instruments and Member States. Furthermore, an additional €290 million is envisaged to support the socio-economic recovery of the entire western Balkan region.
On 30 March, the EU announced a package of over €410 million in reallocated bilateral financial assistance to the western Balkans: EU candidate countries Albania, North Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia, and potential candidates Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo. The package is divided into two parts: funds allocated to immediate support for the health sector (€38 million) and funds envisaged for social and economic recovery support (€374 million).
The first part supports the supply of medical devices and personal equipment, including ambulances, ventilators, laboratory kits, digital mobile x-ray devices, intensive care equipment, personal protective equipment (masks, goggles, gowns and safety suits) and hospital beds. The second, much bigger, part is aimed at mitigating the socio-economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic. This will be done through support to the private sector, increased social protection, with specific attention to vulnerable groups, and by strengthening resilience in the public health sector.
The biggest beneficiary is Serbia (see box below), which should receive €93.4 million in total from this package, followed by Bosnia and Herzegovina (€80.5 million), Kosovo (€68 million), North Macedonia (€66 million), Montenegro (€53 million) and Albania (€50.7 million). The EU has also invited the western Balkan countries to join its joint procurement agreement.
The western Balkan countries will also benefit from the EU’s new health security initiative (see above). They are already receiving support from the EU’s European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), which is sharing its coronavirus-related guidance and assessments with them.
Countries involved in EU accession negotiations may also receive financial assistance from the EU Solidarity Fund (EUSF). The EUSF was adjusted following the European Parliament’s March 2020 plenary session and now also covers major public health emergencies.
Serbia, North Macedonia and Montenegro, together with Turkey, Iceland, Norway and all the EU Member States belong to rescEU, a reserve of capacities to fight disasters that is part of the EU civil protection mechanism. On top of existing reserves – including a medical team trained to set up a field hospital, medical evacuation capacities and firefighting planes and helicopters – arrangements are being made for a stockpile of medical equipment, such as ventilators and protective masks.