COVID-19: Interview with Zaida Cantera on Alliance cooperation, military readiness, and economic recovery

06 May 2020

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Spain and other Allied countries could count on Allied and NATO support to fight the coronavirus pandemic. Zaida Cantera, Head of the Spanish Delegation to the NATO PA, discusses her country’s emergency measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus, the need for solidarity and mutual support within the Alliance, and the role of interparliamentary diplomacy in times of crisis.

Four questions with Zaida Cantera de Castro :

I.    Allied efforts to provide resources and humanitarian assistance to the hardest-hit countries have been critical to help Allies and partners cope with this unprecedented crisis. Could you tell us how NATO, through mechanisms such as the Euro-Atlantic Disaster Response Coordination Centre, has helped Spain over the course of the crisis?

The Euro-Atlantic Disaster Response Coordination Centre has proven to be a flexible assistance tool in disaster situations within the NATO framework and has highlighted that the Organisation extends to the countries that make it up and the solidarity and mutual support commitment that makes it strong. This has been reflected in the response of allied countries regarding Spain, and we are truly thankful for it. 

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

One of the main values represented by NATO is that it guarantees a security environment where all health and industrial resources made available by the different countries can be devoted to the fight against the virus. Coordination between NATO and the EU is in this sense a key element, since the complementary capacities offered by both organisations make it possible to face this crisis with the necessary resources. Under the principle of non-duplication of efforts, the best support can be provided to our citizens, enhancing our societies’ resilience at the same time. 

On the other hand, Spain has reaffirmed its commitment regarding ongoing Atlantic Alliance missions and operations, and in coordination with this body, it shall continue to perform the relevant duties within the Covid-19 framework, determined to resume operations to the greatest extent when health conditions allow it.
NATO countries’ armed forces have made huge civil support efforts in the fight against Covid-19 in accordance with their significant capacities, particularly as regards planning, logistics and adaptation to the tasks assigned, together with the availability and attitude of their members. 

III.    In light of the inevitable and deep economic downturn, what measures and strategies should be considered to maintain defence spending commitments and ensure military readiness for the current and future security challenges? 

Spain, whilst bearing in mind the complex scenario expected after the Covid-19 crisis, will continue with its efforts in coordination with its NATO Allies, so that the Organisation can count on the necessary tools and capacities to face up to future challenges. It is thus essential to maintain military capacities at the adequate level to avoid adding a security crisis to the health and economic ones. 

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 one?

In Spain, parliamentarians are playing a very important role in this crisis. It has been the Government’s responsibility, pursuant to our legal framework and Constitution, to declare the state of emergency which grants the Executive the power to set limits to the rights and freedoms enshrined in our Constitution, but the Government is indeed accountable before the Legislative power, whose authorisation it has to ask to request any necessary extension of the said state. When it comes to requesting extensions, it is the parliamentarians who play an important role, since it is them who exert the oversight and monitoring of the tasks and duties performed by the Government during the state of emergency. Parliamentarians can table amendments, propose situations differing from the said state, asking to make it more flexible, to set limits to it or even suspend it. 

Parliamentary and inter-parliamentary diplomacy will become particularly relevant  and important in the post-COVID-19 situation, since it will be essential to establish adequate mechanisms to even further strengthen the ties of trust among allied countries; the health crisis shall be followed by an arduous fight for economic recovery, an economic recovery that leaves no one behind (this is indeed the motto of the Spanish Government), we will come out of this crisis together and stronger. This diplomacy must be an incentive and a stimulus for our economies currently at standstill, allowing to improve trade exchanges with the subsequent improvement and acceleration of the economy. 

Zaida Cantera de Castro, Head of the Spanish Delegation to the NATO PA