China, Russia vaccines saving people in Western Balkan as EU neglects region
The European Union (EU) has come under fire for “neglecting" the Western Balkan region in the sharing of the coronavirus vaccine, while both Russia and China have adopted a transactional approach to the delivery of their home-made vaccines to the region.
As the wealthy countries of the bloc have started the vaccination against the pandemic, several nations of the Western Balkan region are left out of the EU’s immediate vaccine supply plans.
The EU, which promised to share the vaccine with others, has secured more than 2.3 billion doses of various coronavirus vaccines and has started its own rollout — in a slow pace, though.
Many are now criticizing the EU for not providing the small Balkan region with the vaccine.
Senior policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relation, Engjellushe Morina, warned that this feeling of being left behind could have serious implications for the region’s security.
“Europe has really neglected the region for such a long time and it makes the region vulnerable to other external actors,” said Morina.
“This is where Russia comes in,” she said. “This is where China comes in. This is where Turkey comes in, and they have filled in the void in different aspects.”
The executive director of the Albanian Institute for International Studies, Alba Cela, however, said the fact that the EU didn’t do this is “allowing for other actors to play a role.”
“This is a small region in terms of population, which means that with a small investment in vaccines, the EU would have gained a lot in terms of soft power and influence in the region,” she said.
Meanwhile, Serbia which is facing the possibility of a long wait for the vaccine doses, started purchasing vaccines from China and Russia.
Serbia, the largest of the six Western Balkan nations, said China has so far supplied it with 1.5 million doses of the Sinopharm vaccine.
The country of 7 million has vaccinated around 850,000 people against Covid-19 as of Monday.
The bulk of them received the Chinese vaccine.