On March 16th, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic announced a state of emergency in the country, and said he had sent a letter to his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping asking for help after the EU imposed limits on exports of medical equipment amid the coronavirus crisis.
“I sent a letter to President Xi, in which for the first time I officially called him not only a dear friend but also a brother, and not only my personal friend but also a friend and brother of this country,” Vucic said.
“As of today, as you know, we cannot even import goods, according to the European Union’s decisions, [European Commission president] Ursula von der Leyen said this a while ago, we cannot import medical equipment from EU countries,” he added.
He said that he had asked China to send Serbia “everything” – “even to send us doctors, [because] our doctors are already tired”.
On March 16th, Brussels imposed an EU-wide ban on exports of some medical protective equipment in a bid to keep sufficient supplies within the bloc.
“Such medical goods [protective equipment] can only be exported to non-EU countries with the explicit authorisation of the EU governments. This is the right thing to do because we need that equipment for our health care systems,” von der Leyen said in a video message on Twitter.
Vucic expressed fury that such a decision had been made by EU officials – “the people who gave us lectures here, [telling us] that we should not buy Chinese goods”.
The @EU_Commission presents guidelines on border measures & proposes:
1⃣Green lanes/fast lanes giving priority to essential transport to keep the mobility sector going & ensure economic continuity
2⃣Temporary restriction on non-essential travel to the EU (30 days) pic.twitter.com/9bda9MntF0
— Ursula von der Leyen (@vonderleyen) March 16, 2020
#Coronavirus response team videoconference. Today's focus:
▪️Repatriation of EU citizens stranded in or outside 🇪🇺
▪️Next steps in procurement of medical equipment
▪️Ramping up production of medical devices
▪️Implementation of border guidelines
▪️Economic measures in view of EUCO pic.twitter.com/caPCZq3UhL
— Ursula von der Leyen (@vonderleyen) March 17, 2020
In Serbia, under the state of emergency measures announced by Vucic, Serbia has banned entrance to all foreigners, except diplomats, people with residence permits, and Chinese citizens “who we will be begging to come and help us with everything”.
The EU, in addition to what von der Leyen said, the European Commission is to begin an €37 billion “Corona Response Investment Initiative” directed at health care systems, SMEs, labour markets and other vulnerable parts of our economies, and to make a further €28 billion of structural funds fully eligible for meeting these expenditures.
The bans of movement between EU member states is a formal resolution, which most countries in the bloc already implemented regardless, thus Brussels was simply there to acknowledge that it was happening.
The EU’s actions are late and seem unneeded, as of now, since sovereign states are simply dealing with the coronavirus spreading by themselves.
Serbia is justifiable disappointed in the EU’s calls for solidarity when the situation is calm, and the claims by the EU that turned out to be entirely hollow, when it a crisis came round the corner.
The EU currently is showing to be completely incapable, with it taking formal steps, and evidently only allegedly protecting its members’ interests, but at the same time, even the members inside the bloc are left to fend for themselves.
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