ZAGREB, April 16 (Hina) – The European Union should ensure a flow of protective equipment and essential goods and services during the coronavirus pandemic, Croatian foreign minister Gordan Grlic Radman told reporters after a video conference with his EU counterparts.
Grlic Radman said that EU foreign ministers were agreed that “it is a challenge to keep trade flows open and avoid obstruction of global value and supply chains,” but that “it is important to ensure a flow of vital medical supplies and equipment, critical agricultural products and other essential goods and services across the borders, both within and outside the EU.”
The European Commission decided in mid-March that exports of protective medical equipment, such as masks and gloves, to third countries needed to be approved by member states. The Western Balkan countries are exempt from this measure, and Grlic Radman said that these countries “have our support and can count on our assistance” in combating the COVID-19 pandemic.
Asked if Croatia was helping the Croatian community in Serbia, Grlic Radman said that they were getting steady support “not just political, but material as well.”
EU foreign ministers are also agreed that the EU cannot allow closing the door to international investment and that it is of paramount importance to reform the World Trade Organisation after the crisis. “The international trade system based on WTO rules will be more important than ever,” Grlic Radman said.
Croatia is in the second half of its first presidency of the Council of the European Union, with most of activities being conducted online.
“Video conferences are very successful, although they certainly cannot be a substitute for live conferences, but none of the conferences or meetings has been cancelled to date,” Grlic Radman said.
He is confident that the EU-Western Balkans summit, originally scheduled for May in Zagreb, will be held in some form before the end of the Croatian presidency “because it is one of the priorities and high on the agenda.”
He recalled that during the Croatian presidency North Macedonia and Albania had been given the green light to open accession talks with the EU, and added that he expected a decision on the next multiannual EU budget to be reached by the end of June.