Austria to provide a million COVID-19 vaccine doses to Western Balkans

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Austria will provide a million doses of coronavirus vaccine to the countries of the Western Balkans in addition to the doses it is funnelling towards the region on behalf of the European Union, Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said on Friday.

Kurz made the announcement after a summit with his counterparts from countries of the former Yugoslavia that are not EU member states. An envoy from Albania also attended.

Austria, the rump of an empire that stretched across the Western Balkans until its collapse a century ago, maintains close ties with the region, supporting EU membership bids and working with its countries on issues like migration. Austria is funnelling 651,000 vaccine doses to the region from the EU.

“Beyond that, we also want to make a contribution bilaterally as the Republic of Austria and we have decided as a government that we will make a million vaccine doses available to the states of the Western Balkans,” Kurz told a news conference after the summit.

The doses will be delivered between August and the end of the year, he added, without saying which countries would receive them or how they would be distributed among them. He also did not say which specific vaccines they would be.

The EU doses of BioNTech-Pfizer vaccine that Austria is administering were allocated in April according to which countries needed them most, with Bosnia awarded the biggest number, followed by Albania and North Macedonia.

Photo: Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz. EPA-EFE/CHRISTIAN BRUNA