COVID-19: Vergil Chitac on Allies’ resilience and strengthening cooperation in the fight against COVID-19

11 September 2020

Vergil Chitac, Head of the Romanian Delegation to the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, discusses Romania’s contribution and Allies’ collective efforts to limit and overcome the pandemic, NATO’s adaptation, the lessons learned and the implications of the coronavirus crisis for NATO members and partners. 

4 questions with Vergil Chitac:

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 Romania has used NATO structures to help others and how Romania has benefitted from other Allies’ help over the course of the crisis?

Indeed, NATO has adapted from the very beginning to the extraordinary situation caused by COVID-19, ensuring that this unprecedented health crisis will not become a security crisis. The Alliance has been actively involved in supporting member states and its partners, by providing them with important tools and capabilities. 

My country used the mechanisms offered by NATO in the field of strategic transport and was the first Ally to resort to the Strategic Airlift Capability (SAC) for the transport of medical equipment to Romania from South Korea. 

In its turn, Romania made available to the Allies a C27 SPARTAN aircraft - which can be requested through the Euro-Atlantic Disaster Response Coordination Centre (EADRCC) within NATO - and a facility for the storage of medical supplies (subordinated to the Medical Division within the Ministry of National Defence), as part of the Allied initiative to build up a stockpile of medical supplies and equipment.

Also, Romania provided support to Italy (by sending two medical teams to Milan and Bergamo), to the USA (a medical team to Alabama), and to partner states (Republic of Moldova, and more recently, Ukraine).  

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

Since the outbreak of this epidemic, NATO has taken effective measures to limit the spread of the virus and the risk associated with disease among military and civilian personnel, and the communities they serve. As part of the resilience building activity, the Allies worked together to strengthen inter-agency training, including in the field of health. This cooperation should be further enhanced. 

What matters most is that the strength of the Alliance has not been affected by the pandemic; NATO maintains its ability to fight and respond quickly, even though some operations, missions, and actions have been reduced in intensity to avoid exposing personnel.

The Allies are currently analysing the lessons learned and the implications of this crisis for NATO, the member states and its partners, with a view to increasing resilience to such unpredictable crises. This is an ongoing process of adapting mechanisms and procedures, which, I am confident, will ensure an effective response to a possible future crisis of this type.   

III.    The Romanian President Klaus Iohannis has called for the relocation of some strategic industrial assets to Europe. Some European policymakers have also underlined the need to set up a strong defence of strategic companies left vulnerable to acquisition. How can Allies work together to protect strategic assets and address supply chain vulnerabilities?

The health crisis generated by the pandemic highlighted the importance of early identification of all requirements associated with resilience and the existence of adequate response measures. Energy security is an integral part of these efforts and a vital element of our resilience. The military aspects of NATO’s role in energy security is a subject of high relevance, especially if we consider the adaptation process of the Alliance. Romania, as an Eastern flank Ally, pays specific attention to the current debate on modalities of providing Allied forces with the necessary fuel supplies at all time. The extension of the NATO Pipeline System (NPS) network would likely contribute to the energy security of NATO as a whole, in terms of mobility and readiness.

Of equal importance are the measures decided upon by the NATO Defence ministers in June in order to strengthen NATO's response to the crisis and reduce supply chain vulnerabilities. For example, the creation of stocks of medicines and medical equipment and of a NATO Joint Financial Support Fund, managed by the NATO Support and Procurement Agency, will facilitate distribution to Allies and partners with the help of military transport capabilities.

NATO-EU cooperation has also proved essential in the management of the current crisis, as it enabled the medical community to respond to high-impact events and ensure specific logistical security, including through the European rescEU mechanism.

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 crisis generated by the Covid-19 pandemic has been seriously affecting our countries, putting to a great test the capacity of our health systems, the resilience of our economies and, not least, the patience and understanding of our citizens. An unprecedented crisis needs unprecedented measures, and the choices the authorities are making in fighting the pandemic, in an effort to resolve the health system crisis and reduce the shocks in the economy, will have a profound impact on our future. In this context, sharing knowledge and best practices is vital. It became obvious that the need for international cooperation has increased during this crisis. Allied countries should work closer together to mitigate the challenges that face us in the future, and the NATO PA is an excellent platform for exchanging national experiences and finding common solutions. In these times, parliamentarians should act as promoters of dialogue and cooperation among states, in order to get ready for any other future crisis that might occur: economic, climate, ecological, or health. 

Vergil Chitac, Head of the Romanian Delegation to the NATO PA

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