NATO and EADRCC help Western Balkans countries counter COVID-19 pandemic

NATO headquarters in Brussels; Photo: NATO

BRUSSELS – NATO Foreign Ministers will hold a meeting today by a secure videoconference to address the Alliance’s response to the coronavirus and other key issues for the Alliance.

“This is a global health crisis”, Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told a press conference ahead of the one-day meeting, the first gathering in the Alliance’s history held by videoconference.

“NATO is doing its part to help in this common fight against an invisible enemy”, the Secretary General said, citing examples including the airlift of medical equipment, US and Turkish medical donations and Germany taking in French and Italian patients.

Across the Alliance, allied armed forces are responding to the pandemic, including with field hospitals, transport of patients, disinfection of public spaces, and securing border crossings, and the Western Balkans is no different.

“We are in this crisis together and when we respond together, our response is more effective”, said Secretary General.

North Macedonia, which officially became NATO member on Friday, declared a state emergency due to the COVID-19 pandemic on April 18.

NATO is helping North Macedonia in several ways in countering COVID-19. For example, in 2019 NATO’s Next-Generation Incident Command System (NICS) was adopted to coordinate its national response to the COVID-19 crisis and to provide its public with real-time information and advice.

NICS provides the public with real-time information on the current status of the pandemic in their area as well as information on who to contact for items such as food and medicines. The system also enables all of North Macedonia’s institutions, as well as organisations like the Red Cross, to communicate and coordinate their activities as effectively and efficiently as possible.

Furthermore, NATO reported that North Macedonia sent a request to Euro-Atlantic Disaster Response Coordination Centre (EADRCC), which is NATO’s principal civil emergency response mechanism in the Euro-Atlantic area that deals with natural and man-made disasters.

The EADRCC coordinates the international requests of assistance with all Allied and partner nations and with other International Organizations. Once the EADRC receives the request from the stricken nation it distributes it across all Allied and partner nations as well as international organizations can respond and provide assistance to the stricken nation in a bilateral way.

In a request that it sent to EADRC, North Macedonia is seeking among other things around 200.000 protective suits, 100.000 protective Googles, several thousand nitrile gloves, 50.000 OVID- 19 test kits, 20 mechanical ventilators and other equipment. The response and point of entry are still to be determined.

Another Western Balkans country that used this mechanism was Montenegro. On 26 March, the Government of Montenegro sent a request to the EADRC.

In the request that EADRC received, Montenegro is seeking more help than North Macedonia. Among other things it seeks 5.690.000 Surgical masks, around million masks for personal use, around 336.000 gowns and 100.000 waterproof gowns, a million single-use overshoes and a million single-use surgical caps.

Montenegro used the same mechanism back in 2007 when it received help in extinguishing fires.

Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, and Albania, which is also a NATO member, have not yet made any request to the EADRC, although they have this option available to them.

We remind that the EADRC organized natural disaster exercises in Montenegro (2016),  Bosnia and Herzegovina (2017) and Serbia (2018) to practice responding to these type of requests in case of natural or man-made disasters.

Read our analysis: COVID-19 in the Western Balkans: EU ramps up its assistance as China scores points in the region