The central theme of Tuesday's videoconference of EU defence ministers was the strategic implications of the COVID-19 pandemic in the field of security and defense, including existing defense initiatives and the implementation of EU missions and operations.
The videoconference was chaired by the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the European Commission, Josep Borrell. Also joining EU defense ministers were NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix, and the European Commission’s Crisis Management and Internal Market commissioners Janez Lenarčič and Thierry Breton respectively. Representing Croatia was State Secretary Zdravko Jakop, who filled in after Damir Krstičević resigned his post as Defense Minister last week.
The ministers exchanged views on the actions taken by the European Union in response to the coronavirus pandemic, as well as national experiences on the role of the armed forces in providing support to civilian institutions. They welcomed the establishment of a temporary working group within the European Union's Military Staff, which allows Member States to exchange information and best practices on the contribution of the armed forces in dealing with a pandemic.
Addressing this point, State Secretary Jakop pointed out that solidarity and the coordination of member states is one of the key criteria for successfully dealing with a pandemic and its consequences, and that the Croatian Army is ready to share its knowledge and experience.
Jakop added that the coronavirus pandemic was a global challenge that has affected all aspects of society, including defense, and as such requires a comprehensive approach and cooperation with NATO and UN partner organizations. He went on to say that security risks did not disappear with the arrival of the pandemic, but that the pandemic will have long-term strategic implications for the defense sector.
“In this context, and bearing in mind the contribution of the armed forces in supporting civilian institutions in combating these and potential new challenges, it is necessary to continue implementing EU defense initiatives such as the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO), the European Defense Fund (EDF), the Strategic Compass and military mobility. These initiatives represent a good platform for improving cooperation, developing operational capabilities for a rapid and effective response to crises, and at the same time contributing to economic recovery through strengthening small and medium-sized enterprises,” Jakop said.
The State Secretary also pointed out the importance of keeping the focus of the European Union in Southeast Europe, where the pandemic could serve as another catalyst for instability.
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