Austria says it plans to send a million doses of COVID-19 vaccine to the Western Balkans in addition to the doses it is funneling toward the region on behalf of the European Union.
Chancellor Sebastian Kurz made the announcement in Vienna on June 18 following a summit with his counterparts from countries of the former Yugoslavia that are not EU member states — Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, and Serbia. Albania’s infrastructure minister and EU special envoy Miroslav Lajcak also attended.
In April, Austria already committed to send 651,000 doses of Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine to the six Balkan countries by August on behalf of the EU.
Speaking at a news conference after the Vienna summit, Kurz said: “Beyond that, we also want to make a contribution bilaterally as the Republic of Austria and we have decided as a government that we will make a million vaccine doses available to the states of the Western Balkans.”
The doses are to be delivered between August and the end of the year, the chancellor said, adding that in the beginning it will mainly be doses from the manufacturer AstraZeneca.
A spokesman was quoted as saying that further details — including which countries would receive the doses or how they would be distributed among them — would still need to be decided.
A quarter of Austria’s nearly nine million people are fully vaccinated.
Kurz reiterated on June 18 that Vienna is in favor of a renewed push for the accession of the six Western Balkan countries to the bloc.
“There is still a lot of necessary reform work, but there has been a lot of progress as well in the last few years, which needs to be recognized,” he said.
The EU has already launched accession talks with Albania, Montenegro, North Macedonia, and Serbia./ibna