On Wednesday, European Union leaders will hold a summit with their counterparts in the Balkan countries to discuss their joining the bloc and the support that Russia and China have provided to these countries to help them in combating the outbreak of the new coronavirus.
The European Union has said it has not received enough praise for the 3.3 billion euros ($ 3.6 billion) it provides, and officials say it exceeds medical supplies sent by Beijing and Moscow to Serbia and Bosnia in the first phase of the pandemic.
The summit was scheduled to be held in the Croatian capital, Zagreb, 20 years after the first meeting between the European Union and the Balkans, but it will be held via video, starting at 14:30 GMT with the participation of the presidents of Serbia, Kosovo, Montenegro, Albania, Bosnia, Northern Macedonia and leaders of the 27-nation bloc.
While the six countries still aspire to join the European Union, it is likely that the fight against Covid-19 disease will dominate the summit.
"The summit itself is a message saying: We want to join you," said a senior EU diplomat involved in preparing for the summit.
"But the message will also say that you should not be submissive to Chinese and Russian influence when it is appropriate for you," he added.
China and Russia sent doctors and medical supplies by air to Bosnia and Serbia in March to help them stem the spread of the virus while the EU's initial response was slow.
Serbian President Alexander Vucic thanked the Chinese President Xi Jinping and the Chinese people, and Milorad Dodik, the Serbian representative in Bosnia's tripartite presidency, praised Russia last month, criticizing Brussels for initially restricting exports of medical aid to non-EU countries.
He said then, "Europe that we believed in ten years ago does not exist today," but later tempered his remarks.