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.
“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,” Commissioner for Neighborhood and Enlargement Negotiations Olivér Várhelyi said in press statement on Monday.
Responding to immediate needs:
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 Organisation (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.
Support to the people who are most affected by the crisis, together with civic partners: 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, through the ongoing regional “Rapid Response Mechanism”, 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. By the summer, and as part this package, the Commission will the launch of the “Eastern Partnership Solidarity Program” which will target the most affected parts of the populations through civil society support and notably sub-grants to smaller, local organizations. Additionally a new call for proposals, worth €3 million, was launched on 25 March, to support civil society organizations contribute to social well-being, including those impacted by the COVID19 outbreak.
Mitigating socio-economic impact of the outbreak:
Support to Armenia’s economy, notably small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs): 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 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
Facilitating, simplifying, accelerating, and reinforcing €200 million worth of existing credit lines and grants to SMEs in local currency including through its EU4Business Initiative;
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 Neighborhood 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.
In parallel, a new Twinning program of the Ministry of Emergency Situations in partnership with the Swedish and Lithuanian civilian protection agencies has been approved and will start soon to improve civil protection and disaster risk management.
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.
The outbreak of COVID-19 has accelerated spread of myths and disinformation around it– coming from various sources both within and outside of the European Union.