BRUSSELS – High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell stressed yesterday that a battle of narratives is currently ongoing in the Western Balkans amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
“If you could go to Belgrade, you would see billboards on the main streets of the President Xi from China, saying “Thanks brother Xi, you are the only one to help us”. Which is very funny, because I have never seen a billboard saying “Thanks to the EU for the help it has been providing us”. And we have been providing a lot of help to Serbia and other countries of the Balkans”, said Borrell, who participated in the session of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the European Parliament.
He added that, sometimes, the help EU is providing is not put in the consideration and that the Union has to strengthen its capacity to explain its stabilising role in the Balkans and its will to overcome the most difficult issues in the region, such as the lack of dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina.
Borrell also underlined the need a positive EU narrative in a general sense.
“It breaks my hearth – it almost made my cry to see an European flag being burned in Italy. In a report last week, we highlighted the need of the European Union to fight disinformation, fake news and cyber attacks. We are engaged in the battle of narratives that have certain geo-political component. Through the certain instrumentalisation of help provided by some governments to support their own agendas and cast doubt on the reliability of the EU, sometimes with spins and half-truths, sometimes with fake news”, he said.
According to Borrell, every help is welcome and he especially thanked the help provided by China.
“Remember that, at the beginning of the year when China was severely hit and the pandemic had not come to Europe, we were helping China, now they are helping us, we very much welcome it. I have nothing against that, but maybe we did not promote through the media the help we provide as much as some other countries promote the help that they are providing us today”, the High Representative pointed out.
In his introductory remarks, Borrell reflected on the assistance EU has provided to the Western Balkans.
“We have a particularly close relationship with our partners in the Western Balkans, and as they are also suffering increasing number of people affected by the Coronavirus, we have been trying to support them both in addressing the immediate needs in the health sector and wider socio-economic impact that the containment measures produced”, High Representative said.
He emphasised that 410 million Euros have been allocated to help the region: 37 for immediate help and 373 million for socio-economic impact.
“We have included the Western Balkans in the EU initiatives where possible, for example EU Solidarity Fund and joint procurement of medical equipment. On the export authorisation scheme for protective equipment, the Commission has put the proposal last week, and it now contains the exception for the Western Balkans”, Borrell said.