Over the last week Serbia has thrown its doors open to regional populations in a bid to garner goodwill.

In a move that will likely generate diplomatic goodwill in the Balkans, Serbia has decided to open its borders to neighbours offering free Covid-19 vaccines in recent days.

Serbia has Europe's best vaccination programme after the UK, with more than 20 percent of its population receiving its first dose.

According to Serbian authorities, starting on Thursday last week and into the weekend, more than 22,000 vaccines have been administered to citizens of neighbouring countries.

In a sign that the vaccines being offered are more than about providing them to those in need, Serbia announced that more than 8,500 regional business people had been vaccinated in the previous weekend.

Serbia has set up two main vaccination centres in the region, one in the country's capital of Belgrade and the other in Nish, southern Serbia.

According to local reports, citizens from North Macedonia were being waved through on the weekend at the border crossing of Tabanovce due to the influx of people trying to get vaccinated.

Serbian authorities have also been quick to say that the vaccines being administered are not at the expense of the rest of the population.

"Vaccination of foreigners did not interfere in any way with the immunisation of Serbian citizens, because in the same period more than 28,000 of our citizens were vaccinated, with the Sputnik V, Sinofarm and Pfizer vaccines," a government official said.

Foreigners wishing to get a vaccine are mainly being offered the AstraZeneca-Oxford variation.

Serbia is also stepping into a space that is ripe for the taking. Balkan countries like North Macedonia failed to procure the necessary amount of vaccines hoping that the European Union (EU) would generously offer them.

This has largely failed to materialise.

Bosnia, Kosovo and Albania have similarly been unable to source Western vaccines while spurring the Chinese and Russian vaccines in an attempt to burnish their Western credentials.

The EU has struggled with its vaccine rollout, firstly buying too few vaccines and then casting unfounded doubt over the AstraZeneca vaccine, which has caused EU citizens to increasingly avoid getting the jab.

In recent weeks Turkey has also shipped more than 30,000 doses of the Chinese Sinovac vaccine to Bosnia as the country has struggled to contain the fallout from the rise of the Covid-19 cases.

In a bid to compete with other regional players, the EU has sent 24,000 vaccines to North Macedonia, which will see the wider population getting access to the vaccine that has so far been available mainly to medical professionals.

Source: TRT World