COVID-19: Interview with Mads Fuglede on a comprehensive crisis response, operational readiness and international cooperation to mitigate current and future challenges

10 June 2020

Mads Fuglede, Head of the Danish Delegation to the NATO PA, discusses Denmark’s contribution in tackling the pandemic and strengthening Allied preparedness and response capacities to mitigate current and future challenges. 

4 questions with Mads Fuglede:

I.    Allied efforts to provide resources and humanitarian assistance to the hardest-hit countries has been critical to help Allies and partners cope with this unprecedented crisis. Could you tell us how Denmark has used NATO structures to help others and how Denmark has benefitted from other Allies’ help over the course of the crisis?

Coordination and cooperation within the NATO family has never been more important than in these times of crisis. The past few months have highlighted the value and potential of our common assistance mechanisms and thereby the solidarity between our allied countries. Denmark has been a vocal advocate of a comprehensive crisis response that effectively combines military, political, and civilian crisis management instruments. Such an approach should identify and be compatible with national, bilateral, and international efforts already being made.

Denmark has contributed to the overarching NATO Crisis Response System by reducing restrictions and administrative procedures for COVID-19-related government air travel. Moreover, Denmark has shipped critical health supplies to fellow allied countries on a bilateral basis. 

Thanks to the NATO Support and Procurement Agency (NSPA), protective goggles, thermometers, face shields, and nearly 200,000 masks were delivered to Denmark in April. These health supplies were vital in securing the responsiveness of the Danish health care system and thereby the health of our citizens. 

II.    What additional steps should NATO and Allied armed forces take to support the national and international response to the COVID-19 crisis? 

The current situation has exposed NATO’s comparative advantages in securing strong coordination between allies as well as access to critical infrastructure and logistical networks. NATO’s Euro-Atlantic Disaster Response Coordination Centre (EADRCC) has not only proved critical in coordinating requests for help and offers of assistance, but also in securing a constant flow of information between allied countries. In addition, various airlift mechanisms have helped member countries bypass heavy bureaucracy in order to secure swift deployments of aircrafts and thereby a prompt corona response. 

For the future, it is important not to abandon the strengthened coordination and streamlined workflows that have been developed during the current crisis. A second corona wave, and potentially other pandemics, might be lurking on the horizon. We should therefore capitalise on our current gains by storing knowledge and maintaining mutual assistance – thereby bolstering our response to future crises. 

III.    The air forces of Denmark, the United States, and other Allies demonstrated in recent combined training missions in the Baltic Sea that Allies can (and must) maintain operational readiness during the COVID-19 crisis. How do the Danish armed forces ensure that operational readiness is not impeded, and have they already identified lessons for future civil emergencies?

It is pivotal that the Danish contribution continues to help keeping the Baltic area safe and secure. This is especially relevant regarding the contribution to the enhanced Forward Presence (eFP) in the Baltics, so it does not compromise public health nor the operational readiness of the mission. In order to address both concerns, Danish Defence has taken a number of steps in close collaboration with allies. Soldiers waiting for deployment to the eFP started their mission with a two-week-long quarantine in safe Danish military facilities. During this time, soldiers underwent individual medical assessment before deployment. When deployed, soldiers’ dining and recreational activities are coordinated to avoid crowding and maintain social distancing. 

Training has temporarily been restricted to take place within and around the Danish camp in Tapa, Estonia in smaller groups. However, such restrictions have not compromised the operational readiness of the mission. The training and shooting facilities have a total size of 12 000 hectares – almost double the size of the biggest Danish training facility. These facilities have allowed the continuation of efficient training with our British and Estonian colleagues, thereby securing our Alliance’s continued strong deterrence in the region. 

 IV.    What role do parliamentarians play in this crisis? And what role can interparliamentary diplomacy, including within the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, play to mitigate this crisis and prepare for the next crisis?

The current crisis has displayed the strong role national governments play in reacting to national emergencies. However, no government could or should act on its own. Parliaments must be included in a constructive dialogue and collaboration with the government in order to adopt swift and effective legislation to the pressing challenges our communities currently face. The Danish Parliament has passed more than 20 bills in response to COVID-19 in order to secure jobs, security, and public health for our citizens. These laws were adopted in record time, stressing Parliament’s commitment to finding timely responses to a variable and insidious threat. In other words, strong parliamentary engagement is vital in securing broad, durable, and legitimate solutions in a time of need. 

As we all realise, the current crisis is, by all means, unprecedented. In such a situation, sharing knowledge, best practices, and lessons learned becomes all the more important. The NATO Parliamentary Assembly can be a valuable platform to do just that. The need for international cooperation on e.g. security has not diminished throughout the corona crisis – on the contrary. As new global security configurations unfold in a post-corona reality, allied countries should work even closer together to address and mitigate the challenges that face us in the time to come.

Mads Fuglede, Head of the Danish Delegation to the NATO PA

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