EU announces €500 million energy support package for Western Balkans

The European Union has pledged €500 million to improve energy infrastructure in the Western Balkans, commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said Wednesday (26 October) in North Macedonia on the first stop of a tour of the region.

The announcement comes as rising energy prices triggered by Russia’s war in Ukraine and the onset of winter send shockwaves through European economies already battling rising inflation.

According to von der Leyen the help starts with €80 million in immediate budget support for North Macedonia to “help address the impact of the high energy prices”.

“But of course more will come. For example there are €500 million in grants for the whole region to invest in energy connections, energy efficiency and of course renewable energy”, von der Leyen said, highlighting the importance of being independent from Russian fossil fuels.

Part of the support is through the joint purchase of gas on the global market.

“Energy and economic crisis caused by the war in Ukraine have united Europe. Only united we can handle with the lack of energy and food”, North Macedonia’s Prime Minister Dimitar Kovacevski said.

The news will likely come as welcome relief to many countries across the Western Balkans, including North Macedonia where domestic production of electricity meets only two thirds of the country’s annual needs.

Most countries in the Western Balkans, including North Macedonia, have been in varying stages of negotiations about potentially entering the EU, with some nations having been formal candidates for accession for over a decade.

EU officials have repeatedly stated that Western Balkan countries are a part of the European family despite the long process of accession.

Experts have warned that the stalled integration process has provoked growing Euroscepticism, leaving space for Russian influence to grow in the region.

Wednesday’s visit marked von der Leyen’s second trip to Skopje this year. In July, she spoke in the Macedonian Parliament on the eve of the formal start of the negotiations between North Macedonia and the EU.

The EU Commission chief is set to visit Albania, Kosovo, Montenegro and Serbia in the coming days.


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