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European Western Balkans
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Picula: Urgently allow WB countries to use EU funds

Tonino Picula; Photo: European Parliament

BRUSSELS – The Socialist and Democrat Parliamentary Group in the European Parliament has asked the European Commission and the EU Member States to allow unspent funds from the Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance (IPA) to be diverted to help Western Balkan countries fight coronavirus.

As one of the initiators of the proposal, Tonino Picula stated that the first proof of solidarity would be to help the nearest neighbors equip the health system to more easily suppress the spread of coronavirus.

“We must not leave the Western Balkan countries alone to deal with this human and economic crisis caused by the coronavirus. Too often, their health systems are underfunded and they lack the healthcare professionals who left those countries,” Picula said.

He stressed that for this reason the Western Balkans must be excluded from the “authorization of export of protective equipment” to third countries and that this region must be enabled to procure protective equipment in the European Union.

“It is imperative that IPA pre-accession funds be flexed so that these countries have enough money available to fight coronavirus. Like the member states, the Western Balkans should have the option of diverting unspent money to buy tests and protective equipment, as well as take other measures necessary to mitigate the effects of the coronavirus pandemic,” said Picula.

He reiterated that despite the extraordinary circumstances, the enlargement process must continue with the accelerated dynamics enabled by the new methodology and welcomed the decision of the Dutch parliament to give the country the green light to open negotiations with Albania and Northern Macedonia.

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