Back to normal?
third bulletin, we provide an update on the latest developments on the rates of
infection and mortality arising out of the pandemic in the region, the general
easing of restrictions, as well as the range and extent of international
As most EU
member states embark on a gradual lifting of lockdown measures, and focus on
efforts to mitigate the economic fallout from the pandemic, the SEE countries
are facing increased challenges from a worsening economic situation combined
with in some cases electoral pressures and a rise in Covid-19 infections.
and direct assistance already announced by the EU for the SEE countries will
play a critical role in helping to mitigate the worst effects of the pandemic
at a time when EU related reforms have in most cases taken a back seat.
review the latest developments with Covid-19 in the SEE region, a mixed picture
emerges ranging from zero increase in infections in the case of Montenegro to
infection rates under control in most countries, but with upward trends in both
Albania and North Macedonia. The difference is that the increases in these two
cases appears to be confined to localised clusters linked to religious
celebrations and/or the textile industry. Testing capacities as well as
tracking and tracing procedures will be critical in determining whether these
increases can be controlled in the coming weeks.
of lockdown measures has continued throughout the region. However, in the case of
North Macedonia the resurgence of infections could result in a re-imposition of
curfew measures in the capital city and other localised areas, while the
technical government in place has been criticised for its perceived failure to
ensure observance of lockdown measures and allowing electoral considerations to
determine its approach.
In the case
of Turkey, the government has been criticised for giving priority to economic
considerations in advancing the timing for the easing of restrictions, and
opening the door for a possible second wave.
Foreign aid and geopolitical (re-)positioning
exception of Turkey, the EU is confirmed as the largest donor to all the
countries of the region. While in some cases, such as in Serbia, the EU was
criticised for its initially slow response and delays in lifting export
restrictions of medical supplies, the support and direct assistance announced
by the EU in the course of May has received wide recognition and appreciation.
It has included not only medical equipment but also direct grants and loans to
assist the countries in their economic recovery plans. The support from the EU
has been complemented with direct assistance from a number of EU member states
and other European countries such as Switzerland and Norway.
challenge facing the region will be the manner and speed with which the aid is
implemented, in particular the preparation of suitable project proposals,
where, as in the case of Albania, the national administrative capacity remains
exception of Kosovo, China has been active in providing assistance to all of
the countries mainly in the form of medical equipment and protective clothing.
However, even in those countries such as Montenegro. Bosnia and Herzegovina and
Serbia where Chinese investments are already substantial, the level of
assistance provided for the pandemic was comparatively modest and without much
publicity, with the exception of Serbia where the President made a big show of
welcoming the Chinese shipments.
dramatic situation arising out of the pandemic in Russia, it is probably not a
surprise that assistance to the region was both modest and mainly limited to
its ‘traditional’ partners, such as Republika Srpska and Serbia.
meanwhile was also active in providing assistance, mainly in the form of direct
grants, some of which was channelled through international organisations.
In terms of
assistance from the region itself, while the proactive role of Turkey in
providing assistance to some 80 countries was to be expected, the direct
support provided by Albania in the form of a team of doctors dispatched to the
Bergamo region in Italy is noteworthy, as was Serbia’s gesture of sending some
medical equipment to Kosovo.
Finally, it is clear from the assessments below that the EU related reform programmes have suffered over the past months in the region. There has been either a slowing down of much needed reforms as in the case of Albania or Montenegro, even if the government there has accepted the new methodology for accession negotiations, or no movement at all, as is the case in North Macedonia where the technical government remains in place in preparation for the early elections, for which a date has yet to be set. A bright spot could be Bosnia and Herzegovina where the President of Republika Srpska, a traditional euro-sceptic, launched an initiative for implementation of the reforms set out by the EU last year, although it remains to be seen what practical impact this will have.
Read the full bulletin here.
This publication is prepared within the framework of the CEPS-led ‘3dCFTAs’ project, enabled by financial support from Sweden.