Commissioner for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations Olivér Várhelyi

YEREVAN (Armenpress, RFE/RL) — As part of its global response to the coronavirus outbreak, the European Commission stands by Eastern Partner countries and has reallocated €140 million for the most immediate needs including for Armenia. In addition, the Commission will also redirect the use of existing instruments worth up to €700 million across the region to help mitigate socio-economic impact of the coronavirus crisis, the EU Delegation to Armenia told Armenpress.

Commissioner for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations Olivér Várhelyi said: “These are very difficult times not only for the EU, but for our partner countries, such as Armenia, as well. We have to do what we can to mitigate the impact of the Coronavirus outbreak on human lives and livelihoods. Today’s package responds both to the immediate needs of the health systems, as well as a longer term needs to the most vulnerable groups in society and small and medium-sized enterprises, which are the backbone of the economies in the six countries.”

Support to the Armenian health system: At the request of the partner countries, including Armenia, the commission will respond to immediate needs by supporting the supply of medical devices and personal equipment, such as ventilators, laboratory kits, masks, goggles, gowns, and safety suits. The European Commission is working with the World Health Organization (WHO), and is deploying €30 million to ensure these necessary supplies are jointly purchased and effectively distributed to the health systems of the six countries in the coming weeks. In addition, the funds will support national health administrations to train medical and laboratory staff and carry out awareness raising measures to the wider population.

The EU has made available more than €11.3 million in small grants to civil society organizations across the region. These funds are already responding to immediate needs, such as supporting local schools with distance learning. In Armenia, a project with the Red Cross will be launched in the coming days to support the elderly, vulnerable families, and people with disabilities.

The EU is working closely with International Financial Institutions (IFIs) and relevant financing institutions from EU Member States as TEAM EUROPE providing a coordinated European response for the real economy, including small and medium enterprises (SMEs), in particular through launching of a new regional support program of €100 million to help SMEs, including self-employed and others to easily access credit and boost their businesses after the crisis. This will be complemented by a new support program targeting Armenian SMEs worth €13 million

The EU is also exploring to mobilize over €30 million from existing programs in coordination with the Armenian government.

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In addition, in the current crisis the EU has mobilized its major de-risking instrument worth €500 million, the European Fund for Sustainable Development (EFSD). This will rapidly provide liquidly and can be urgently deployed by IFI partners to facilitate the provision of liquidity in the EU’s Neighbourhood including through working capital, trade finance, or moratoria on debt service.

The EU is also reorienting ongoing support programs to address Armenia’s needs to respond to the pandemic. As a result, €1.75 million has already been disbursed under a Public Finance Policy Reform budget support program to provide immediate support to the government.

The Commission also stands ready to provide assistance to Armenia through TAIEX, its peer to peer instrument, by using EU Member States expertise, experience and examples of good practice on assessing emergency preparedness response scheme and health systems.

US Aid

The United States has pledged to provide Armenia with more than $1 million in aid designed to combat the coronavirus epidemic.

The funding will be part of a $274 million emergency aid package announced by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo late last week. Pompeo said it will help “64 of the world’s most at-risk countries” to better deal with the spread of coronavirus.

The assistance will be provided through international aid agencies, notably the World Health Organization.

“We are pleased that $1.1 million has been authorized for Armenia,” the US Embassy in Yerevan announced at the weekend.

The embassy told RFE/RL’s Armenian service afterwards that the assistance has already been transferred to relevant international organizations. It is aimed at strengthening Armenian health authorities’ capacity monitor infections and detect the virus.

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