Directors General of the NATO and EU International Military Staffs meet to assess ongoing cooperation
On Tuesday 16 March 2021, Lieutenant General Hans-Werner Wiermann, Director General of the NATO International Military Staff, hosted a virtual meeting with his EU counterpart, Vice Admiral Hervé Bléjean to discuss the ongoing EU-NATO cooperation, including in exercises, training, military mobility and medical cooperation. The meeting concluded with the presentation of the COVID-19 lessons-learned programme spearheaded by NATO Allied Command Transformation, with the support of NATO Centres of Excellence.
Today’s meeting provided a forum for both directors and their respective staffs to exchange views and hold open discussions on the ongoing cooperation between NATO and the EU. Since 2018, both organisations have been conducting parallel crisis management exercises with related scenarios; these contribute to improving our knowledge of each other’s working methods and procedures as well as our overall coordination and information sharing. NATO and the EU understand the importance of maintaining and building on their collaborative relationship.
Throughout the ongoing pandemic, both organisations have had to adapt how they exercise and how they provide training. Lockdowns and social distancing measures have reinvigorated the interest for virtual courses and e-learning. Both NATO and the EU are looking into the possibility to open these programmes up to their respective counterparts. “We have much to learn from each other so training and exercising together makes sense. By building interoperability between NATO and non-NATO countries part of the EU, we can work to mobilise a broader range of tools and make the most efficient use of resources to address common challenges and enhance the security of all our citizens”, highlighted Lieutenant General Wiermann. The Director of the EU Military Staff, Vice Admiral Bléjean added that “NATO and the EUMS are working towards the same goals and objectives, related training and exercise scenarios significantly increases the lessons that are identified and learned which enhances capability development.”
This health crisis has also magnified the need for better cooperation between NATO and the EU in certain fields, such as information exchange, medical cooperation and military mobility. Vice Admiral Bléjean observed that “this pandemic does not respect boarders or organisations, and a coordinated EUMS/NATO strategy and response is far greater than the sum of the parts”. This pandemic has also demonstrated a requirement for NATO to improve military mobility, to ensure that allied forces can cross borders faster and more easily, when needed. “In the event of a crisis and the requirement for a swift response, we cannot afford to waste time getting our troops or equipment to the right place. Working together will help us undertake a wide range of measures, including legislative measures and diplomatic clearances to enable rapid crossing of borders, on land, in the air, and at sea; effective command, control and communication; transportation capacity; and infrastructure. Working with the EU during this pandemic makes us all safer”, clarified the Director General of the NATO International Military Staff.
As Nations launch their vaccinations programmes, it is an opportunity for NATO to identify the right lessons from this pandemic to increase Allied resilience and crisis management. With the help of its extensive network of NATO Centres of Excellence, Allied Command Transformation aims to collect and analyse lessons-learned from over 45 NATO entities, including 25 CoEs. These centres are recognised for their expertise and experience, and regularly assist NATO in doctrine development, identifying lessons learned, improving interoperability and capabilities, as well as testing and validating concepts through experimentation. Specific CoEs, including those specialised in Military Medicine, Military Police, Communications and Crisis Management and Disaster Response, have agreed to collate these lessons for the Alliance. “COVID-19 takes a great toll at the same time it offers a great opportunity for international organizations like NATO and EU to identify issues and possible best practices. The outcome of this work should ensure that we are better prepared should another health crisis emerge. We learn to be better prepared both in the short and long term. Knowledge is power and forewarned is forearmed”, concluded Lieutenant General Wiermann.
In the current strategic environment, facing new challenges and threats, cooperation between the EU and NATO remains essential. With 21 common members, the security of the EU and NATO is clearly inter-connected. Since 2016, NATO and the EU have been strengthening their cooperation by working on 74 military-related work strands, including countering hybrid threats, enhancing resilience, defence capacity building, improving cyber defence, maritime security, military mobility and exercises.