The foreign ministers of six Western Balkan countries have urged Brussels to exempt their countries from EU export restrictions on medical protective equipment.
As the coronavirus spread across the Continent, the EU last month adopted an export authorization scheme for some personal protective equipment such as face masks with the aim of stopping EU capitals imposing national bans.
The export restriction was also meant to increase solidarity among EU countries while preventing foreign countries from buying up large amounts of protective gear that was needed in the bloc.
But the foreign ministers of Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia complained in a letter — addressed to EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, Trade Commissioner Phil Hogan and Neighborhood Commissioner Olivér Várhelyi — that the restrictions had made it “more difficult” for their countries to buy protective gear, and asked the EU for an exemption.
“Our region only has a population of 17 million people. Our purchase of these goods would not have a negative impact on the European Union market,” reads the letter, dated Tuesday, which POLITICO has seen.
The ministers noted that Brussels had exempted eight other neighbors — Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, the Faeroe Islands, Andorra, San Marino and Vatican City — from the restrictions.
They added that exempting the Western Balkans from the export control would “send a strong signal to our citizens that in this we are all together as Europeans.”
Four of the six countries that issued the letter — Albania, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia — are recognized candidates for EU membership.
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