COVID-19: Josef Hajek on Czech and NATO efforts in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic

04 September 2020

Josef Hajek, Head of the Czech Delegation to the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, discusses Czech contributions to NATO efforts during the pandemic, increased coordination of health policies, common funding of new crisis management tools, better information sharing, and military support to civilian crisis management.

3 questions with Josef Hajek:

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 the Czech Republic has used NATO structures to help others and how the Czech Republic has benefitted from other Allies' help over the course of the crisis?

From March 18, 2020 onwards, the Czech air force has been enabling the transport of medical material from China via CARGO transport capacities (SALIS alliance program). The transport (including traffic at Pardubice airport) is administered by the Military Transport Desk based on requests by the Ministry of the Interior. Precisely, flights were conducted on March 21, 24, and 30, 2020. Czech army logistics has thus far helped to secure over 215 tonnes of material. 

The Euro-Atlantic Disaster Response Coordination Centre (EADRCC), established in 1998 under the PfP, constantly supports efforts to coordinate international cooperation during disasters. They register states’ requests for help, and coordinates provision of such help by donors. In relation to the COVID-19 crisis, EADRCC mediated provision of help to both Members of the Alliance (e.g. ES, ME, IT, AL, MK) and Partner countries (e.g. UA, MD, BA, GE, CO). Through the EADRCC, the Czech Republic supplied protective suits to Spain, Italy, and North Macedonia. 

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

There should be a coordination of our hygienic security measures (quarantine measures), enacted in relation to the fight against the spread of the disease by individual countries in NATO foreign operations, with consideration given the national measures as well. 

Furthermore, common financing for operations related to COVID-19 should be created, with the goal of creating a fund for preventative transport of possible supply of medical material through a NATO foreign operation. 

Also, we should create, and provide access to, a platform (“Common web interface”) for sharing all possible and free means of transport (railways, roads, airways, waterways) among the Member States. This would result in a logistical database comprising of all transport and logistics projects (SALIS, SEOS, ATARES, etc.) that could be used by the Movement Coordination Centre for Europe (MCCE) or the Allied Movement Coordination Centre (AMCC). 

III.    The Czech Republic Defence Forces have been deployed throughout the country to support the effort to control the COVID-19 crisis. While armed forces have different roles across the Alliance depending on national circumstances, can other Allies learn from the Czech forces on how the military can contribute to national civilian efforts during health and other civil emergencies? 

The mechanism of deployment of the Czech army to support resolution of critical situations of a non-military character on the territory of the Republic, to help the integrated emergency services and/or the Czech police, is a long-term tradition in the Czech Republic, and has a firm legislative basis. 

Nevertheless, deployment of the army in an epidemiological emergency has been a new experience for the army. Currently, there is a process underway to identify lessons learnt during this crisis. Already, we can state that the Czech army has significant logistical and personnel capacities, deployable to support the integrated emergency services at a short notice.

Josef Hajek, Head of the Czech Delegation to the NATO Parliamentary Assembly

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