After the European Commission declined the request for aid from Serbia, which applied for medical equipment and staff to fight the coronavirus pandemic, Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić turned to China. Serbian president stressed out that no financial aid was needed, however, the statement adopted by the European commission banned export of the medical supplied from EU.
Chinese Ambassador to Serbia, Chen Bo, approved the donation and decided to send staff to assist Serbia.
Vučić said Serbia yet does not suffer the same crisis as EU states, however, that is the matter of time. “To avoid that worst-case scenario, we need your help and support. That is why I am asking that you send us anything you can. Money is not a problem, we need everything, from masks, gloves to ventilators, literally everything, and most of all we need your knowledge and people who would be willing to come here and help,” Vučić said.
“We are waiting for our Chinese brothers here. Without you, it turns out that Europe is having difficulty defending itself, we do not hide the fact that we cannot [defend ourselves]. Without China and our Chinese brothers, we are incapable of doing so,” he added.
On 15 March, Serbia declared a state of emergency due to the coronavirus. Currently Serbia has already received the first batch of Chinese aid. It included COVID-19 test kits provided by the Mammoth Foundation, a Shenzhen-based humanitarian organisation.
Formerly leadership of the EU states called Serbia to back down from importing goods from China in favor of Europe. Today by rejecting the Serbia’s call for help, even in exchange for money, they force it to turn to Chinese market.
In response, EU explained that export of medical equipment and supplies was not banned, however this product category fall under the regime of permits for selling to non-EU states. That is, Balkan and other foreign countries may request deliveries. The Social Democrats group of the European Parliament also called the EU authorities in their statement not to ignore the western Balkan region in the fight against the coronavirus.
On 17 March, European Commission Spokesperson Ana Pisonero said the EU was looking at ways to connect the Western Balkans with the initiatives taken by the EU in curbing the coronavirus pandemic.
Now was the time for solidarity, rather than unfounded accusations, she said. “Close coordination and cooperation at the regional level and with the EU are key factors in the response to this emergency situation. In these difficult times, solidarity is needed. This is not the time for a polemic or unfounded accusations”, said Pisonero.
She added that the EU was looking at how to best provide support in mitigating the social and economic consequences of the pandemic, including the possibility of redirecting EU pre-accession funds and flexibility regarding state aid rules.