The first shipment of the EU’s donation of over 119,000 Pfizer/BioNTech doses arrived in Skopje on 4 May, a day that Commissioner Oliver Varhelyi described as a ‘good day for the Western Balkans’ and ‘wonderful day for North Macedonia’. Skopje was the fourth stop on his Western Balkan tour, which marked the delivery of the first part of vaccines to the six countries in the region. There are a total of 651,000 doses for the Western Balkans – of which 119,123 for North Macedonia – that will be delivered in weekly instalments by the end of August.
“This is something that has not been easy, this is something that we have been working on together with the tremendous help and stamina of the Austrian government […] We have been working a lot to make this happen and to show you that we care”, said the Commissioner at a joint press point with Austrian Federal Minister for the EU and Constitution Karoline Edtstadler and PM Zoran Zaev, held at the main vaccination centre in Skopje.
“We have accompanied the Western Balkans and indeed North Macedonia from the very beginning of this pandemic and we will continue to do so. Now it’s a crucial moment to bring the vaccines; and we are doing just that”. He expressed the EU’s intention to continue supporting the Western Balkans throughout the pandemic. He called on the population to get vaccinated, and especially those health-care workers not yet vaccinated. This will build resilience, he said “not only for the health care sector but also for society and the people of North Macedonia”.
During his stay in Skopje, the Commissioner also held a meeting with PM Zaev.
The vaccines are funded from the €70 million package adopted by the Commission in December 2020 to help cover the cost of vaccines, secured under the EU’s advance purchase agreements for the Western Balkan partners. Austria has facilitated the sharing of these EU funded vaccines through legal arrangements with the producer and each Western Balkan partner.
The EU has demonstrated solidarity and care with the countries from the Western Balkans region since the onset of the pandemic. For North Macedonia, the EU has made available some 230 million EUR for emergency healthcare supplies and in support of mitigating the socio-economic impact of the pandemic.