MOSCOW (Sputnik) – The European Union will provide North Macedonia with 80 million euros ($80.6 million) in grants as part of a support package for the Balkan states in order to help the country cope with the effects of the energy crisis, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on Wednesday.”We are putting forward now an energy package, a support package, for the whole Western Balkans. It begins with grants, 80 million [euros] grants here for North Macedonia as immediate budget support. It will help address the impact of the high energy prices on your citizens and on your businesses and we will finalize this by the end of the year so that you can get the funding already in January,” von der Leyen said during a joint press conference with North Macedonian Prime Minister Dimitar Kovacevski in Skopje.Von der Leyen also promised to provide more financial support in the future, noting the importance of developing domestic renewable energy sources in order to achieve self-sufficiency. She also invited North Macedonia, a non-EU member that submitted an application to joint the bloc in 2004, to join the European joint procurement plan for gas.”It will also enable you to participate in the European joint procurement for pipeline gas and LNG. We have decided in the European Council that we want to purchase to buy gas on the global market together because this strengthens our purchasing power, we invite you, North Macedonia, to join us, to be with us so that we go to the market together,” von der Leyen added.Since 2021, energy prices in EU countries have been surging as part of a global trend. After the beginning of Russia’s military operation in Ukraine in February 2022 and the adoption of several packages of sanctions against Moscow by the EU, energy prices have accelerated their growth, placing energy security high on both the global and national agendas and pushing many European governments to resort to contingency measures. The EU has been looking for alternatives to Russian natural gas as it has pledged to end its dependence on fossil fuels.