The government’s of 13 EU Member States have sent a joint letter to the executive, calling for COVID-19 vaccines to be distributed in the Balkans along with the Eastern Partnership.
They said that the EU would not be protected from the virus until the countries that border it are also protected. Signatories of the letter include Bulgaria, Croatia, Czechia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, and Sweden.
“We strongly support the efforts and initiatives by member states and the European Commission to share the vaccines from the allocated contracts with the closest EU neighbours, such as the Western Balkan countries,” the ministers said in the letter which was sent yesterday.
Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis said in a statement that:
“The EU is not safe until all the EU neighbours are safe, including our Eastern European Partners,” adding that the vaccine shortage is likely to be temporary.
At the end of last year, the European Commission gave EUR 70 million to help the Western Balkans access the COVID-19 vaccines created in the EU. This would help kickstart the vaccination drive in the most vulnerable groups.
The letter concluded that “It’s our responsibility not only to promote reforms in these countries but to lend a helping hand during the COVID-19 pandemic. Together we are strong.”
The Albanian government had previously asked the EU if Albania could be vaccinated simultaneously with the rest of the bloc. The EU refused and said Albania would get surplus vaccines. This prompted angry reactions from Prime Minister Edi Rama and his Communications Aid Endri Fuga.
The Russian Embassy in Tirana then published an offer of their Sputnik vaccine to the Albanian government, via social media. Rama did not take to the suggestion kindly.
So far, Serbia is the only country in the Western Balkans that has started vaccinating against the virus. It is using a combination of different vaccines including Pfizer and Sputnik.