Serbia’s President Alexandar Vucic blasted the European Union for lack of solidarity with his country, and for allegedly blocking the export of medical equipment from the union. At the same time, Vucic praised China and “brother” President Xi.
In his announcement of the emergency situation in the country yesterday due to coronavirus, Vucic stated that “European solidarity does not exist, it was a fairytale,” and that the Chinese are “the only ones who can help us.”
Vucic alleged that the EU had banned export of medical equipment:
“As of today, as you know, we cannot even import goods, according to the European Union’s decisions, Ursula von der Leyen said this a while ago, we cannot import medical equipment from EU countries,” he said.
Vucic slammed the EU for “giving lectures” to Serbia in the past how they “should not buy Chinese goods”, while the union allegedly showed no solidarity to Serbia in this time of need.
He informed that he had written to President Xi of China instead to ask for help:
“I sent a letter to President Xi, in which for the first time I officially called him not only a dear friend but also a brother, and not only my personal friend but also a friend and brother of this country,” Vucic said.
He added that Chinese nationals are the only ones that can freely enter Serbia during the state of emergency, and promised that China will send Serbia “everything” the country needs to face the coronavirus outbreak.
“I say to foreigners: don’t come to Serbia, except for the Chinese who are called upon to come, their doctors, the people who help us,” Vucic said.
However, in the video message that Vucic was referring to, President von der Leyen did not announce a ban on exports of medical equipment but rather the need for regulating exports according to EU member countries’ needs. She explicitly said exports to non-EU countries can still be made with an authorization by each EU government.
“Such medical goods can only be exported to non-EU countries with the explicit authorization of the EU governments. This is the right thing to do because we need that equipment for our health care systems,” von der Leyen said.
Following the publication of President von der Leyen’s message, Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama stated that “the EU cannot and should in no way exclude the Western Balkans from trade access for these essential goods for the health of our people.”
The Chinese government reacted swiftly to Vucic’s call by promising to “stand firmly” with Serbia and providing all medical equipment needed:
"Serbia is China's close friend. We will stand firmly with Serbia in the battle against #COVID19 and provide them with masks, protective outfits, ventilators and other medical supplies, and send our medial expert groups there": FM spokesperson Geng Shuang pic.twitter.com/ZqgwBFq6BT
— Global Times (@globaltimesnews) March 17, 2020
German Minister for Europe Michael Roth expressed bafflement at Serbia’s choice between the EU and China:
Strange choice. #China offers money. The #EU offers democracy, rule of law, human rights, freedom, respect to minorities, solidarity… https://t.co/OgHycSZp59
— Michael Roth MdB 🇪🇺 (@MiRo_SPD) March 16, 2020
Contrary to allegations of some of the Balkan leaders, the European Commission held a videoconference with prime ministers of these countries, organized by Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurtz.
Commissioner for Enlargement Olivér Várhelyi stated the EU’s support for the WB during the coronavirus outbreak, and informed that they’re exploring the best ways to help the region.
Looking also at how to best offer support in mitigating the socio-economic impact, including by redirecting #IPA funding & flexibility with state aid rules. Close coordination&cooperation on regional level & with EU is key.
— Oliver Varhelyi (@OliverVarhelyi) March 17, 2020