Meeting of Defence Ministers, 15 April 2020
On 15th of April the minister of Defence of the Republic of Slovenia Matej Tonin, MSc, attended an extraordinary meeting of NATO defense ministers. In light of the measures adopted in the fight against COVID-19 pandemic, the meeting was conducted via a secure audio-video link, following an example of foreign ministers meeting earlier this month.
Allied Defence Ministers, together with the EU VP/HR Josep Borrell and Ministers of Defense of Finland and Sweden, discussed further steps in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic as well as its implications for the Alliance. They addressed the need for enhanced coordination in responding to misinformation and propaganda and potential medium and long-term consequences of the crisis, including future response based on lessons learned. Responding to a pandemic requires a coordinated response not only within the Alliance, but also with our closest partners, especially our strategic partner, the EU.
The Alliance remains united and ready to continue to fulfill its core and priority tasks. Military exercises have been reduced in scope and adapted in order to prevent the spread of infection, but not at the expense of the Alliance's ability to deter and defend itself. Ministers stressed the importance of continued participation in NATO's operations and missions. The Alliance is responding to COVID-19 crisis within its capabilities and competences. Allied armed forces at national level provide essential support to respective civilian authorities. Military support in fight against the pandemic is coordinated at the highest Allied military level. It is important that the health crisis does not become a security crisis.
Since last week, simplified procedures for rapid air mobility are being used, which will speed up air transportation of critical medical equipment across the Alliance. According to Alliance decisions, these flights will be given a priority by air traffic controllers.
The use of strategic airlift capabilities (SAC C-17) for the delivery of emergency medical equipment and personnel, for example, has proven to be an example of good practice in using NATO's military capabilities to deal with civilian crisis.
Following a decision by the Government of the Republic of Slovenia, Slovenia on 14th of April, requested, through the Euro-Atlantic Disaster Relief Coordination Center (EADRCC) international assistance in providing strategic airlift of protective and medical equipment to Slovenia. At the same time, Slovenia has already donated protective equipment to Northern Macedonia, and we have sent a military health team to EUFOR Althea, which has carried out over 120 COVID-19 tests and delivered safety equipment, including COVID-19 testing equipment to the Butmir Base. The donation was also provided to Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia.
Ministers also agreed on the common need to further intensify efforts to combat COVID-19-related misinformation and propaganda, which is being spread by both state and non-state actors alike. The media, with open and transparent reporting, play an important role in these endeavors. The best tool for combating propaganda and the spread of misinformation is to provide fact-based information. To this end, also a NATO Action Plan was prepared and the need for closer coordination and cooperation with the EU was emphasized.
At the Alliance level, particular attention is given to gaining experience and lessons learned for our future response to similar unpredictable and global situations.