Commissioner Varhelyi brings first EU-donated vaccines on Western Balkans tour

Commissioner Varhelyi brings first EU-donated vaccines on Western Balkans tour
By Valentina Dimitrievska in Skopje May 4, 2021

EU Enlargement Commissioner Oliver Varhelyi arrived in Skopje on May 4 to bring the first 4,850 doses of Pfizer vaccines donated by the EU.

The visit to North Macedonia is part of his Western Balkans tour, which is also aimed at supporting the Balkan countries’ EU integration processes.

“With almost 120,000 doses for North Macedonia we will help boost vaccination so we can all come out of the pandemic,” Varhelyi said in a tweet. The rest of the vaccines will be delivered until the end of August.

EU commissioner launched his Balkan tour with a visit to the Serbian capital Belgrade on May 3.

“I congratulated Serbia for its successful vaccination campaign and its support for the region and underlined the need to get vaccinated,” Varhelyi said a day earlier.

Before arriving in Skopje, he also visited Bosnia & Herzegovina and Montenegro.

“With 42,000 doses we will help vaccination of all frontline medical staff and other most vulnerable groups to ensure Montenegro has resilience to fight and come out of pandemic. We Care!” Varhelyi said in a tweet.

Bosnia will receive over 200,000 vaccines as an EU donation. On Wednesday, Varhelyi will visit Albania and Kosovo.

Before launching his Balkan tour, the EU commissioner said that the aim of the tour is to pass a clear message to the region.

“We care! We care about our partners, and we care about their health care workers and the most vulnerable. The delivery of the vaccines confirms our continuous commitment to provide support, as we have been doing since the outbreak of the pandemic," he said.

EU integration

In Skopje, Varhelyi met North Macedonia’s PM Zoran Zaev. The EU integration process was also discussed at the meeting, with Zaev emphasising that North Macedonia is ready to find a joint solution with Bulgaria and expressing the expectation that the EU will help with creative proposals for a solution, the government said in the statement.

Bulgaria vetoed the launch of EU accession talks with North Macedonia at the end of 2020, due to language and historical issues.

Varhelyi stressed that the European Commission strongly supports the country’s efforts to find a solution to the open issues with Bulgaria.

Regarding the possibility of Skopje starting EU negotiations in June, he stressed that this requires the consent of all member states.

"It is a difficult question. We still have to work hard, we are not where we need to be right now. All member states must agree. That means we will have to find a solution regarding North Macedonia," Varhelyi said.

The EU commissioner also underlined that in his opinion, Albania has met the conditions and it is possible for Albania's integration process to be separated from North Macedonia’s.