The Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement, Olivér Várhelyi met with SG Roberto Antonione in a conference call on 24 April, to exchange views on activities of joint interest with special focus on the response to COVID-19, including possible concerted actions.

The talks - witnessing the participation of the Executive-level of the CEI Secretariat - paid attention to specific tailormade activities aimed at tackling the pandemic, and its dramatic consequences to the societies of CEI Member States. The Commissioner presented the substantial funds and efforts the European Commission was redirecting to the benefit of Western Balkans and the Eastern Partnership.

SG Antonione outlined, in particular: the Extraordinary virtual meeting of the CEI Heads of Government under the Montenegrin Presidency, scheduled on 15 May, addressing the health, economic and social consequences of the crisis; the concept developed, in cooperation with the WHO Regional Office for Europe, on establishing a Task Force in response to the emergency, which consists in the establishment of this mechanism and related Working Groups where, assisted by WHO experts and facilitated by the CEI-Executive Secretariat, Member State health officials would discuss best practices in their area of work and promote the implementation and coordination of actions within and among CEI Member States; the outcome of the CEI Extraordinary Call for Proposals, launched to provide a targeted response to the COVID-19 outbreak and meet the specific needs of CEI Member States.

Várhelyi expressed appreciation for the CEI instruments and mechanisms of regional cooperation, including political dialogue. He considered the CEI actions towards meeting the specific needs of the countries related to the COVID-19 outbreak complementary to what the EC was doing for the WB and Eastern countries, both through bilateral and multilateral channels, and expressed willingness for further cooperation.

In this context, he also expressed his readiness to learn more about the needs the CEI countries had presented in the framework of the Call.

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