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European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations
News article22 April 2020Directorate-General for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations

Coronavirus: The EU supports its Southern partners to prevent further spread of the pandemic

The European Union stands firmly by its partners in the Southern Neighbourhood and is reallocating up to €2.1 billion of existing funds in bilateral and regional assistance as part of the EU’s global response to the coronavirus outbreak. This...

coronavirus knows no borders

The European Union stands firmly by its partners in the Southern Neighbourhood and is reallocating up to €2.1 billion of existing funds in bilateral and regional assistance as part of the EU’s global response to the coronavirus outbreak. This includes €30.8 million for immediate needs, €572 million to strengthen national health systems and €1.5 billion to support the socio-economic recovery of Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Palestine* and Tunisia.It will also help respond to the needs of those inside Syria through health provision and community-driven development support.

Commissioner for Neighbourhood and Enlargement, Olivér Várhelyi, commented: “In the fight against COVID-19 pandemic the European Union is supporting its neighbours in very concrete ways. When it comes to our partners in the Southern neighbourhood, we are helping to address the most immediate needs, to provide assistance for the health systems and to mitigate the socio-economic consequences of the crisis. With emergency aid already being delivered on the ground, we continue to focus on redirecting significant funds to help alleviate the long-term impact, in cooperation with the international financial institutions. For us working with our neighbours in this global pandemic is key: we can only make it together.

Responding to health-related needs

As an emergency response at the regional level, the Commission launched a new €9 million programme with the European Centre for Disease Control (ECDC) to provide tailor-made support to all neighbourhood and enlargement countries to enhance their preparedness and response capacities. Epidemiologists and frontline health staff will receive help and advice from dedicated ECDC staff to respond to heightened needs caused by the pandemic.

Based on the priorities and needs defined by the partner countries, the Commission is adjusting its ongoing assistance programmes, reorienting its programming for 2020 and in some caseadvancing payments for urgent equipment and national healthcare training necessities, or to provide fiscal space.

For instance in Morocco, the Commission is reallocating €150 million to respond to the needs identified by the Moroccan ‘Fonds Spécial pour la Gestion de la Pandémie Covid-19’; and in Lebanon, projects worth €86 million are being reoriented to ensure continuity of critical healthcare, raise awareness and finance the purchase of protective equipment and hygiene items.

The EU response takes into account the fragile living conditions of hosting communities, migrants, refugees and internally displaced persons.

Projects under the EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa - North of Africa window continue to provide essential emergency medical assistance, including distribution of hygiene kits to the most vulnerable groups. In North Africa, specific awareness-raising initiatives to encourage migrants to adopt good hygiene practices were launched, training focused on coronavirus prevention is provided to medical staff, and essential protective equipment is being distributed.

The EU Regional Trust Fund in Response to the Syrian crisis is already contributing to improve access to healthcare, including through the purchase of personal protective equipment, andto improve the living conditions of refugees,internally displaced people and vulnerable communities in countries neighbouring Syria. A further €240 million was committed on 31 March to strengthen resilience of Syrian refugees and vulnerable host communities with a focus onJordan and Lebanon. This latest package is particularly relevant for the coronavirus response as it foresees extensive health support and social assistance.

Mitigating the socio-economic impact

As part of the €1.5 billion in support of socio-economic recovery, the Commission is workingwith the International Financial Institutions tostrengthen a number of regional facilities (under the Neighbourhood Investment Platform) to support SMEs, enhance trade financing, and provide more financing in local currency with projects amounting to €115 million. The EU is also adjusting regional economic programmes on investment and innovation amounting to €26 million, focusing on the impact of the crisis on decent jobs for all.

The EU response will also help partner countries respond to exceptional budgetary needs and address the longer-term socio-economic consequences of the pandemic, while maintaining its long-term support to ongoing reforms.

For example, in Tunisia, where €250 million are being reoriented to help the Government support the sanitary response, the economy, the payment of salaries and the social protection measures for the most vulnerable; or in Palestine where €10.5 million will help mitigate the economic and social effects on SMEs and the most vulnerable.

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* This designation shall not be construed as recognition of a State of Palestine and is without prejudice to the individual positions of the Member States on this issue.

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