EU extends support programme for Eastern Partnership countries

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The European Commission has reallocated 140 million euros for the most immediate needs of the six Eastern Partnership countries (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine) in the fight against coronavirus. In addition, the Commission will also redirect the use of existing instruments worth up to 700 million euros to help mitigate the socio-economic impact of the crisis.

“These are very difficult times not only for the EU, but for our partner countries as well,” said Commissioner for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Olivér Várhelyi. “We are doing all we can to mitigate the impact of the coronavirus outbreak on human lives and livelihoods. We are responding both to the immediate needs of the health systems, as well as longer term needs to the most vulnerable groups in society and small and medium-sized enterprises, which are the backbone of the economies in the six countries.”

At the request of the partner countries, the Commission will respond to immediate needs by supporting the supply of medical devices and personal equipment, such as ventilators, laboratory kits, masks, goggles, gowns, and safety suits. The European Commission is working with the World Health Organisation (WHO), and is deploying 30 million euros to ensure these necessary supplies are jointly purchased and effectively distributed to the health systems of the six countries in the coming weeks.

In addition, the funds will support national health administrations to train medical and laboratory staff and carry out awareness raising measures to the wider population.

The Commission has also made available more than 11.3 million euros in small grants to civil society organisations. These funds are already responding to immediate needs, through the ongoing regional Rapid Response Mechanism, such as supporting local schools with distance learning. By the summer, and as part of this package, the Commission will launch an Eastern Partnership Solidarity Programme which will target the most affected parts of the populations through civil society support and notably sub-grants to smaller, local organisations.

The Commission is working closely with international financial institutions and relevant financing institutions from EU member states to coordinate the European response for the real economy, including SMEs in particular, through the launch of a new support programme of 100 million euros to help SMEs, including the self-employed, to easily access credit and boost their businesses after the crisis.

The Commission is also facilitating, simplifying, accelerating, and reinforcing 200 million euros worth of existing credit lines and grants to SMEs in local currency, including through its EU4Business Initiative

In addition, the EU has mobilised its major de-risking instrument, the European Fund for Sustainable Development, worth a total of 1.55 billion euros, with 500 euros million being made available for the EU’s neighbourhood.

This will rapidly provide liquidity, including through working capital, trade finance, or moratoria on debt service. This support is in addition to the ongoing macro financial assistance support to partners, including Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine.