Armed Forces and COVID-19
In the current months, EUROMIL observed that armed forces are being involved in fighting COVID-19. Indeed, they are carrying out an important role in supporting both healthy and infected citizens.
EUROMIL expresses its support to all the staff from essential services that is mobilised to support people in the fight against COVID-19, including military personnel.
In this respect, EUROMIL highlights the need for states to protect the health and safety of military personnel and reduce the exposure and transmission of COVID-19 to or from armed forces. Special attention should be dedicated to the mental health of members of the armed forces, who have been designated for carrying out unusual tasks without having a specific preparation. This may have an impact on their mental health during and especially after the accomplishment of their tasks.
Moreover, EUROMIL calls on states not use the present context to undermine or attack the human rights and fundamental freedoms of military personnel. In these challenging times, the right to freedom of association plays a central role in protecting the living and working conditions of armed forces members, such as social protection, remuneration, rest periods and working time arrangements. It is therefore of outmost importance to keep social dialogue ongoing, where it exists, and to pursue consultations with professional military associations and trade unions. Trade union rights must absolutely be respected and EUROMIL urges countries that started discussions on opening the right to freedom of association to military personnel to go forward in their projects.
Finally, EUROMIL calls on decision-makers to preserve defence spending targets, once the pandemic is over, and deliver on expectations in the defence sector. As HR/VP Josep Borrell highlighted on the occasion of the video conference of Defence Ministers on 6 April 2020 : “ongoing work in security and defence remains a clear priority, now perhaps more than ever. Because from now on, health becomes a security issue”.
In this section, you will find more information about how armed forces are dealing with COVID-19 in European countries.
As part of the preventive measures against the spread of coronavirus, the Albanian armed forces are carrying out humanitarian operations, by distributing food aid to families, throughout the country. Additionally, they monitor and patrol the country with armoured vehicles. Further information available here 1 and 2.
Additionally, Albanian military pesonnel are following measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the state structures, based on the instructions issued by the Ministry of Health and Social Protection, Institute of Public Health and the World Health Organization. Further information available here.
Here is an interview to Olta Xhaçka, Albanian Minister of Defence.
On 28 March 2020, Albania sent 30 doctors and nurses to Italy showing its solidarity and friendship in fighting the COVID-19.
On 7 April, a team of specialists from the Russian armed forces arrived in the Republic of Armenia to help preventing the spread of COVID-19 and implement anti-epidemic measures. They additionally shared their experience and knowledge on the pandemic with the Armenian partners.
On 11 April, the Minister of Defence of the Republic of Armenia, David Tonoyan, and the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Russian Federation to the Republic of Armenia, Sergey Kopirkin, got acquainted with the activities of the mobile laboratory of conducting testing for COVID-19 infection set up in Yerevan.
On 13 April, the Ministry of Defense set up checkpoints in all regions of Armenia with round-the-clock duties.
The Austrian armed forces are helping to mitigate the consequences of the coronavirus all over Austria. Further information can be found here.
The Ministry of Defence of Azerbaijan transferred 50% of monetary allowance to the Fund to support fight against COVID-19. Further information available here.
On 2 April, Azerbaijan Defence Ministry decided to undertake measures to protect servicemen amid COVID-19 outbreak.
According to the news as of 16 April, military personnel delivered targeted assistance to families following the instructions of the Minister of Defence. Necessary food products, packed in the Central Food Warehouse of the Ministry of Defence, were delivered to the needy families, war veterans and disabled.
Armed forces are working together with other departments and public services to plan military capabilities in various fields.
However, it has been acknowledged COVID-19 is clearly affecting the military’s day-to-day operations. The large-scale military exercise Defender 2020 with NATO countries in Europe has been cut. All internal travel not deemed mission-critical have been banned. The large-scale field exercises and daily training activities have been cancelled. Recruitment stations have been closed and education in military schools have been suspended. An infected coronavirus on board a warship forced the Navy to reduce its deployments.
A full list of the tasks carried out by the Belgian armed forces in the fight against COVID-19 is available here. Further general information on the measures for military personnel, defence workers and their families, can be found here.
Our member ACMP-CGPM released a position paper on the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on the military readiness. They acknowledged that this pandemic is bearing down on military readiness and eroding the military’s preparedness to fight. They included, furthermore, some suggestions to make training activities more pandemic-proof in the future.
The army’s medical personnel has been mobilized in retirement homes. Further details can be found here.
Further information on the deployment of Belgian defence resources in the fight against COVID-19, as of 2 May 2020, are available here.
A full chronology of Belgian defence activities, including the tasks carried out by the armed forces during COVID-19 since February 2, is available at the following link.
As approved by the Council of Ministers on Monday 27 April, the Minister of Defence, Philippe Goffin, has been instructed to provide 18 million masks for the whole population.
Update 14 July 2020: The military contribution to fighting the pandemic has dropped to almost nil. The Belgian army still provides storage facilities for the storage of protective equipment and also helps with its distribution. Military medical personnel and the military hospital in Brussels act as a “back up” for the civil health services, but are currently no longer deployed themselves.
On 2 April, Bosnia and Herzegovina requested international assistance in response to COVID-19.
On 16 April, Bosnia and Herzegovina received support from Hungary and Slovenia that delivered medical supplies and other items, such as tents, field beds, sleeping bags, electric heaters and blankets.
According to the news as of 19 March, Croatian armed forces engaged in erecting a tent for a medical camp outside the Dubrava hospital in Zagreb. Further information available here.
On 9 April, Croatian Army offered its support to the Health Ministry’s crisis management team by providing Croatian Air Force’s helicopters addicted to transport patients infected with the coronavirus.
According to the information provided by EUROMIL’s member CAOA, the spread of COVID-19 is tackled according to the usual routine in the National guard. Nevertheless, the safety and well-being of military personnel remain absolute top priority.
On 10 April, a military transport aircraft CASA of the Czech Army transported 1,000,000 masks to North Macedonia, in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.
Our member CS released its position on the Danish Defence measures.
A military field hospital was opened in the island of Saaremaa in Estonia on Thursday 2 April to treat COVID-19 cases following a volleyball game with an Italian team in March. Full article available here.
As part of the efforts to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, Estonia donated medical supplies to Spain (21 April) and Italy (24 April), including 30,000 face masks and 2,000 units of disinfectant.
General information on the impact of the COVID-19 on the Finnish defence forces and the military can be found here. The material on the page will be supplemented as the situation progresses.
The Finnish Defence Ministry made changes to the training and leave arrangements for conscripts and women in voluntary military service and changes regarding refresher training exercises. Further infomation available here.
According to the news as of 4 April, 600 French soldiers have been infected by Covid-19.
On 18 april, French Chief of Defence (CHOD), General François Lecointre explained, on TF1 France, what happened aboard the navy aircraft carrier Charles-de-Gaulle, where 1,046 sailors were infected by COVID-19: “Health of our staff is the most valuable asset we have. […] Without service personnel we are unable to defend our citizens”. The video is available here.
In June, the defence committee of the parliament presented a report on armed forces and COVID-19.
GendXXI association expressed its opinion on both health and psychological consequences of COVID-19 outbreak amid the military.
APNM Gendarme et Citoyens called for the recognition of COVID-19 as work-related disease. Police officers, military personnel, firefighters (volunteers or professionals) and hospital civilian services are constantly serving the nation.
Georgian defence forces have been involved in the preventive measures against the spread of COVID-19.
The Defence Minister addressed the Georgian peacekeepers, who are serving in Afghanistan and the Republic of Central Africa, via video tele-conference (VTC) from the military command center, calling on the military personnel to show highest possible mobilization against the spread of coronavirus. Article and video available here. A statement of the Defence Ministry available here.
West Command of defence forces increased the number of checkpoints in its operation area to prevent coronavirus spread in Georgia. Article and video can be found here. Additionally, the administrative units of Kobuleti municipality have been added to the area of operation of the Western Command.
According to the news as of 12 April, logistics Command of Defence Forces conducted disinfection works at the territory of Giorgi Abramishvili Military Hospital and Davit Agmashenebeli National Defence Academy of Ministry of Defence. Further information available here.
As part of the preventive measures against the spread COVID-19, the military of III Infantry Brigade together with the law enforcement officers have been involved in controling quarantine restrictions imposed under the state of emergency at the Lentekhi entrance.
In May 2020, the Embassy of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland supported the Georgian Defence Forces for the preventive measures against the spread of COVID-19, more information here.
The Bundeswehr provided administrative assistance to the Federal Ministry of Health, deploying a team of 15,000 soldiers to deal with the COVID-19 crisis. Our member DBwV provided us with some information concerning the tasks performed by the Bundeswehr during COVID-19 pandemic.
Here you can find updates as of the end of April. DBwV stressed that the assistance is especially provided by military personnel when the civilian authorities and organisations have reached the limit of their capabilities. Additionally, military personnel helped with the procurement of medical equipment, the provision of beds and storage capacity for civilian facilities.
All the updated information regarding the engagement of the German armed forces in COVID-19 crisis can be found here.
According to German news, “the Corona crisis puts the Bundeswehr on alert, especially its hospitals. After all, every hospital bed and every helping hand is needed. The army is pulling in reservists and many have come – voluntarily”. Further general information available here.
An overview about the current situation (status 11 Agugust 2020) can be found here.
On 11 March, the Greek Ministry of Defence announced emergency measures for the military personnel:
- a “special leave” for parents who are both serving in the armed forces;
- restriction of staff movements and thorough monitoring of suspected cases;
- suspension of the academic courses in the military academies;
- suspension of the military parade on 25 March;
- ban on travel abroad;
- cancellation of any international – European military training.
Additionally, in March, the Greek Minister of Defence ordered military factories to product medical supplies to support the hospitals.
On 12 March, our member PFEARFU requested the extension of the “special leave” provision to vulnerable military personnel or those responsible for people with disabilities and incurable diseases. The request was accepted by the government.
On 16 March and 5 April, PFEARFU asked for an allowance, as an extraordinary financial support to armed forces health personnel. It was accepted by the government. Press releases available here and here.
On 22 March and 9 April, PFEARFU asked for protective measures against COVID-19 for military personnel in the Evros border area, camps and immigrant facilities. Press releases available here and here.
On 26 March, PFEARFU launched a blood donation campaign due to the COVID-19 pandemic crisis and the large shortage it caused.
On 11 April PFEARFU, in collaboration with the regional governor, collected and distributed medical supplies in a military hospital and military camps in northern Greece.
The Hellenic National Defence General Staff issued a series of strict measures against COVID-19 to facilitate the daily work and protect military personnel. It made changes to training and leave arrangements for conscripts, issued guidelines for disinfection of camps and quarantined colleagues infected with the virus. Press releases available here, here and here.
On 14 April, PFEARFU held a formal meeting with the Minister of National Defence, Mr. Nikolaos Panagiotopoulos, the Deputy Minister of National Defence, Mr. Alkiviadis Stefanis and the Director of the Minister’s Office, Mr. Athanasios Valaris. The main issues discussed were: the protective measures for the Armed Forces personnel against COVID-19, the need for new legislation to regulate ranking injustices for the NCOs, the elimination of bureaucracy regarding the issuance of pensions, the elimination of injustices related to insurance contributions. The meeting was fruitful and the political leadership committed to resolve the above mentioned issues and to maintain a close social dialogue. Press release available here.
On 6 May 2020, the Ministry of National Defence issued a press release on infected personnel in the Greek armed forces.
EUROMIL’s Hungarian member HOSZ provided an overview on the tasks performed by the Hungarian Defense Forces (HDF) in the fight against COVID-19.
Information from the Hungarian Ministry of Defence from 18 April is available here.
HOSZ continues to maintain contact with the HDF leadership and to keep military personnel informed about special rules and possibilities in the field of labour related to the state of emergency.
The Irish Defence (DF) have moved very quickly to support both the government and the National Health Service. Last month, DF “Alert Status” and posture dramatically changed, allowing military personnel to be prepared and deployed in support of the national effort and resilience in fight COVID-19. All the DF’s resources, with the exception of their commitment to internal security and overseas operations (UN/NATO and EU), have been deployed to support primarily the National Health Service. Measures taken by DF include:
- the deployment of officer cadets and bandsman to perform ‘contact tracing’ duties with them now performing training of other public sector workers as the tasks increase;
- the building of a new COVID-19 specific Task Force headquarters which coordinates and directs all DF activities for the health service, police prison service etc.;
- the building of test centres across the state;
- using 3 x Naval service ships as support platforms (feeding, power, water, storage) for testing centres;
- cessation of all non-core activities (training activities, exercises, general administration);
- creation of temporary morgues;
- upgrading of military medical facilities enabling them to accept civilian patients;
- the deployment of a large number of our medical officers to support public hospitals, national ambulance service;
- the support offered by Air Corps personal to national ambulance coordinating centres ( some MOs are supporting ambulance crews over the phone);
- ‘staff planning’ proceeding for worst case scenarios – mass fatalities, public order, support national police).
Additionally, DF headquarters have produced a number of ‘Operational’ and ‘General Routine’ orders as well as a series of information/support videos and soldiers cards.
In the current COVID-19 situation, Commandant Dorota O’Brien, Chief Military Psychologist, encourages all personnel and their families to look after their mental health: the video is available here. Further information provided from the Defence Forces Psychology Department concerning COVID-19 and Mental Health can be found here.
The Italian armed forces supported national health through: the dispatch of military doctors and nurses, the setting up of field hospitals, the provision of military health facilities for the reception of patients, the transport of medical equipment and the support to the police in public security activities. Further information available here.
All the latest updates are available here.
Our member ASSODIPRO provided us with an overview of the situation of the armed forces in Italy and the support provided by the entire Defence sector in the fight against COVID-19. The Italian armed forces are playing an increasingly important role in the management of the Covid 19 pandemic.
As military forces are increasingly exposed to risks of contagion, ASSODIPRO intends to continue fighting for the recognition of the rights of the Italian military, including the right to health, as well as closely monitor the conditions of employment of members of the armed forces.
On 22 April, the Public Service CGIL (FP) launched a digital listening service called “Funzione Protettiva” with the aim of taking care of the psychological well-being of the frontline health workers in the COVID-19 emergency, as they are daily exposed to intense stress, both physically and psychologically.
During this health emergency, the Italian army provided the country with military personnel, means and specialised infrastructures. In the no.2 of the official periodic of Italian Defence Force “Informazioni della Difesa”, you can find an overview of all the tasks that Italian armed forces are carrying out to fight COVID-19.
On 18 March, Latvian armed forces suspended all kinds of training and events that are not crucial for maintaining combat capabilities and fulfilment of international obligations. “We are taking all necessary safety measures to prevent virus from further spreading, we want to protect our soldiers and our allied troops from contracting virus in the next weeks. The main task of our armed forces is to be ready for combat and our military have to continue to provide defence even in a state of emergency”, stressed the Defence Minister Artis Pabriks.
From 23 to 27 March, Latvian armed forces at the Adazi Training area tested their preparedness to help contain the Covid-19 outbreak. Additionally, Latvian armed forces developed protocols, identified human resources and infrastructure that can be used to manage the crisis and respond to emergency in case of rapid spreading of COVID-19. They are ready to provide support in curbing the spread of COVID-19 to healthcare sector and Ministry of Interior as soon as it is required.
FAQ: Lithuanian armed forces against COVID-19. Constantly updated.
On March 29, a team of Croatian and German military medics with specialised equipment arrived from Croatia to Lithuania by a special flight to take care of the NATO enhanced Forward Presence Battalion Battle Group personnel who had been diagnosed with COVID-19. Article available here.
Raimundas Karoblis, Minister of Lithuanian Defence, during the European Union Defence Ministers’ teleconference meeting on April 6: “The coronavirus crises has not only decreased security threats in Europe but also created conditions for them to grow. The COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent emergency is used for malignant spread of disinformation and cyber-attacks aimed at discrediting countries’ efforts to control the spread of the virus”.
Over the Easter weekend, Luxembourg Defence transported medical equipment to Lithuania. Further information and pictures available here.
Additionally, rescuers from the Army health service offered their support to emergency services (CGDIS). Pictures available here.
Military and civilian personnel provided one working day’s salary to better support COVID-19 prevention.
The Army supported the Ministry of Health, Labour and Social Protection for the arrangement of the Public Medical-Sanitary Institution COVID-19 Chisinau Center. Full article available here.
The National Army monitors and supervises, together with the police, the movement of people in Soroca and Stefan Voda. Full article available here.
In May 2020, the armed forces continue to support the population against the spread of COVID-19. Information here. The Moldovan defence also received protective equipment medical support from other countries, including Romania, the UK and the US.
All the latest information are available at the following link.
The Prince’s Company of Carabiniers has been authorised to wear work clothes rather than the traditional uniform in order to facilitate cleaning requirements and respect barrier gestures to stem the possible spread of COVID-19. Article available here. On 19 June 2020, the Prince’s riflemen returned to service.
According to the news as of 4 April, Montenegro’s armed forces engaged in disinfection and surveillance of public buildings, including the Ministry of Defence and a military hospital.
EUROMIL Montenegrin member SOVCG provided further information concerning the daily work of Montenegro armed forces in the fight against COVID-19.
Every day, 200 men and women engage in various tasks, ranging from safeguarding quarantines and decontaminating vehicles and facilities, to helicopter transport of endangered medical equipment. They also assist the population in cooperation with the Red Cross.
SOVCG also gives its contribution in this COVID-19 fight through the commitment of its members in safeguarding quarantine, in supporting medical institutions and other tasks. More information available here.
EUROMIL Dutch members AFMP and MARVER reported on general measures taken by the armed forces against COVID-19. Additionally, AFMP and MARVER decided to keep a COVID-19 log: all the updates from 10 March to 8 April are available here.
Dutch defence is supporting civil authorities in the fight against COVID-19: more information available here.
On 22 April, the Netherlands delivered personal protective equipment and medical supplies from China to Montenegro, in support of the efforts against the COVID-19 global pandemic, following Montenegro’s request for assistance through NATO’s Euro-Atlantic Disaster Response Coordination Centre.
Despite the expansion of COVID-19, the activities of EUROMIL member NSO did not stop; on the contrary, they provided assistance to members of the Army to fight the pandemic in the whole country.
The Ministry of Defence cooperates with the Ministry of Health and the City of Skopje, deploying mobile military hospital to expand the civilian medical capacity for the citizens with Covid-19.
The Ministry of Defence received medical support from Bulgaria.
The outbreak of COVID-19 has affected Norway and the Norwegian Armed Forces. However, they carry on with they daily operations and missions. Further information available here.
Polish armed forces are performing various tasks during COVID-19 situation, using as well armaments and full-time weapons. There have long been regulations in Poland that allow the army to support the training of the Ministry of the Interior and Administration in the tasks related to public order protection. The General Command points out that soldiers carrying out these tasks are equipped with full-time small arms. Further information available here.
According to the information our member KONWENT reported, soldiers are supporting local communities, especially the elderly people and quarantined (soldiers underwent medical training so that they are ready to help doctors to care for patients infected). Blood donation campaigns are underway within the army. Polish Territorial Defense Forces are working with police and border guards to stop the transmission of virus. The army is constantly helping the elderly and quarantined across country. Representatives (doctors and medical personnel) of the Military Institute of Medicine have just left with a scientific medical mission to Italy.
On the country level series of measures were undertaken in order to reduce the risk of COVID-19 spreading. Ministry of Health announced epidemiological threat in Poland as a one of measures to prevent the spread of the virus. On 31 April, further restrictions have been implemented.
On 23 April, Poland sent a medical mission from Warsaw’s Military Institute of Medicine to the United States in order to help with the fight against COVID-19.
EUROMIL Portuguese members ANS and AP reported about the activities carried out by the armed forces in Portugal, including the risks the armed forces are facing in fulfilling the tasks assigned. ANS and AP thus call to endow military personnel with sufficient protection and appropriate equipment.
Here you can find an overview of the assistance provided by the Portuguese army to civilian entities, as well as a monitoring chart of COVID-19 cases in the army.
Information on the disinfecting role of armed forces in July 2020 is available here.
The Public Relations Department of the Portuguese Army published an information document with news (from 27 April to 3 May) on COVID-19 from countries around the world.
Over 13-17 April, medical equipment consisting in 100,000 protection suits airlifted from Germany to Romania, as part of the efforts to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.
On 16 April, the soldiers assigned to take part in the second rotation of “Carpathian Pumas” Detachment mission left for Mali on Thursday. Before leaving for mission, the entire personnel of the detachment went through a 14-day isolation period, being tested both at the beginning and the end of the isolation period.
On 17-18 April the ROL 2 military hospitals started to take over patients diagnosed with COVID-19. Further information available here.
The Ministry of Defence deployed operational headquarters to prevent the spread of a new coronavirus infection in the armed forces. Operational groups work in formations, military units and organizations. Further information available here.
EUROMIL Serbian member NEZAVISNOST outlined the tasks carried out by military personnel during the COVID-19 pandemic, denouncing the exposure of soldiers to the possibility of contagion.
NEZAVISNOST was able to arrange the procurement and donation of protective equipment and supplies in several garrisons. Contacts with the employer continued anyway as regards the presentation of important information, the suggestions for a better organisation and, finally, the protection of employees.
CBRN units were deployed for disinfection tasks.
EUROMIL Slovak member ZVSR reported on their information concerning COVID-19: “In the wake of the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, since early March 2020, measures that changed the training plans for the armed forces have been adopted. Following the declaration of the extraordinary situation in the Slovak Republic on 11 March 2020 and the subsequent health emergency, professional soldiers, in accordance with relevant measures, participated in helping the civilian population in cooperation with policemen (transportation of materials, guarding of state borders and buildings with people coming from abroad and obligatory in quarantine…)”.
In addition, ZVSR provided EUROMIL with an overview of the situation of the Slovak armed forces in the fight against COVID-19 and the assistance that the ZVSR is providing, such as the delivery of medical equipment to policemen and soldiers. In their document, they also referred to pandemic preparedness and the impact of the pandemic on the rights and freedoms of military personnel. Their report is available here.
On 20 April 2020, Slovakia delivered medical supplies to Italy in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Further information available here.
Slovenian armed forces set up accommodation facilities, in the Edvard Peperko Barracks, that will be used for people according to the needs expressed during COVID-19. Further information available here.
In April 2020, Brigadier General Robert Glavaš took over as Chief of the General Staff of the Slovenian Armed Forces. Addressing future activities, he highlighted the important role of the Slovenian military in stemming the spread of the new virus.
Military personnel from the Army, Navy, Air Force, Military Emergency Unit and Royal Guard are deployed against COVID-19 under Operation Balmis. The armed forces published the state of play of the operation on 15 May 2020.
On 24 March, AUME, AUCG, SUP and Servicios a la Ciudadania (CCOO) wrote a letter to the Spanish Prime Minister asking to provide people representing the four aforementioned associations with the necessary protection.
On 28 March, EUROMIL member ATME replied to the letter of gratitude of the Minister of Defence addressed to the military for their action in the COVID-19 crisis.
On 2 April, EUROMIL member AUME asked the Spanish Ministry of Defence to provide military personnel with adequate protection in the performance of their duties during COVID-19 crisis: “Who protects those who protect?”. In particular, AUME asked the Spanish Ministry of Defence to provide military personnel with the equipment and means of protection, as well as with access to the COVID-19 quick test. Military personnel are entitled to effective protection in health and safety in the exercise of their activities. Additionally, AUME reported serious dysfunctions in Operation Balmis affecting the safety of the military staff, their families and the population with which they interfere.
On 7 April AUME appealed to the Ombudsman against the health and safety conditions of the armed forces members deployed against COVID-19 and complained about the lack of consultation and appointment of representatives of the Military Life Observatory. They called for the protection of the rights of all members of the armed forces, including those who are deployed in the Operation Balmis and those who are not but have still the right to health protection.
On 9 April, ATME sent a proposal to the Ministry of Defence, calling for the adoption of the necessary measures to ensure that members of the armed forces deployed in Operation Balmis, who are or become infected by COVID-19, are recognised the medical leave for professional contingency.
On 10 April, a video of AUME-AUGC-SUP-CCOO was released denouncing the lack of adequate measures to protect security personnel.
On 21 April, ATME requested the Spanish Defence to test all armed forces personnel to diagnose COVID-19. The armed forces are high-risk workers, since they carried out countless missions, being exposed to biological contacts, with the risk of being infected and transmitting them.
On 22 April, ATME, AUME and ASFASPRO associations requested an extraordinary plenary session with the Chairmanship of the Armed Forces Personnel Council, scheduled for Monday 27 April. The associations put on the table topics that are affecting military personnel during the COVID-19 health crisis: working conditions of military personnel, the work-life balance, and health care for soldiers and their families.
On 27 April, ATME, AUME and ASFASPRO stressed that their main priority is to safeguard the interests (health, family reconciliation and professional promotion) of all military personnel. ATME presented the measures taken by the Army, and especially mentioned the work of the reserve “reservistas de especial disponibilidad (RED)”. During the meeting, the Minister simply thanked the efforts and work of the military and collected information from the associations. As AUME, ATME and ASFASPRO stated in their note: “The health of the members of the armed forces and that of their families deserve much more than a few simple words of thanks, which neither protect them nor serve as professional recognition”.
In May 2020, AUME has presented a new complaint to the Ombudsman regarding the restrictions in force on travel through national territory that seriously affect work-family reconciliation.
Running by Jorge Bravo, secretary of Organization, AUME has launched a YouTube channel to deal with specific issues affecting military personnel.
In the end of May 2020, AUME sent a new report to the Spanish Minister of Defence entitled Los Derechos no son residuales (“Rights Are Not Residual”). AUME considers that the COVID-19 crisis uncovered a concerning situation as regards the exercise of rights and working conditions of members of Spanish the armed forces. The extended report develops several points regarding travel restrictions on national territory, a lack of professional expectations regarding ranks, frozen wages, uncertainty for temporary personnel, insufficient infrastructures and accomodations, the absence of social dialogue between associations and the Ministry of Defence, etc. AUME closely with works with other associations (ASFASPRO-NCOs, ATME-Enlisted) to defend a common position on these issues in Spain.
EUROMIL Swedish member SAMO released its position on the Swedish Defence measures.
Information on the tasks carried out by Swiss military personnel against COVID-19 can be found here.
In April 2020, the media reported poor and unsuitable working conditions, putting the security of military personnel at risk. Further information available here.
The Swiss armed forces stopped their support mission against COVID-19 on 17 June 2020 and immediately had an “after action review“. All soldiers who served for a minimum of10 days received a decoration. A summary of the mission in numbers can be found here.
Health supplies have been sent to countries including Italy and Spain via A400M aircraft belonging to the Turkish armed forces. Further information can be found here.
Additionally, medical supplies have been sent to Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Kosovo via Turkish armed forces plane. Further information can be found here.
Ukrainian armed forces requested international and humanitarian assistance in response to COVID-19, to prevent the spread of the virus in their military units.
COVID-19 infection саses recorded in the armed forces of Ukraine, 19 May 2020, available here.
The Ministry of Defence put an additional 10,000 military personnel at a higher readiness and placed Reserves on standby to support public services as part of a new “COVID Support Force”. Full article available here. The COVID Support Force, with 2,689 personnel deployed, is currently supporting the public services to respond to the outbreak.
On Wednesday 8 April, the Defence and Security Accelerator (DASA) launched a £1 million fund to fast-track innovation to aid the armed forces in the fight against COVID-19.
Here a video with further information on the role of British armed forces in the fight against COVID-19.
According to updates as of 16 April, thirteen thousand members of the armed forces are said to be absent from duty because of coronavirus, largely because they are self-isolating, looking after other family members or otherwise having to work from home.
Gen Sir Nick Carter said that around 3,000 forces personnel were helping to carry out a number of frontline tasks in the UK, including 200 working in the ambulance services, as well as assisting the emergency delivery of protective equipment, oxygen and ventilators for hospitals.
“Our role is very much in support of the heroic healthcare workers on the frontline”, the general said.
In May 2020, Defence Minister Johnny Mercer announced extra funding to support frontline armed forces charities across the UK. The announcement follows the recent launch of 2 platforms specifically designed to support the defence community. Veterans’ Gateway and HeadFIT, a platform, helping defence personnel take a more proactive approach to their mental health and fitness.
On Monday 6 April 2020, EU Defence Ministers held a videoconference to discuss the defence implications of the Covid-19 pandemic.
They focused on military assistance to face the crisis and the situation of EU military and civilian missions and operations under the framework of the Common Security and Defence Policy. It was decided to explore setting up a task force led by the EU Military Staff to better exchange information and share best practices among EU member states, in full coordination with NATO.
In his final remarks, Josep Borrell, High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice-President of the European Commission claimed: “The crisis offers an opportunity to reflect on how we can improve our resilience and use defence initiatives to develop defence capabilities required to address similar situations in the future. Ongoing work in security and defence remains a clear priority, now perhaps more than ever. Because from now on, health becomes a security issue”.
The remarks by the Josep Borrell following the videoconference can be found here.
On Monday 20 April 2020, the Chairs of the Committees on Foreign Affairs, Development, and Trade, the Subcommittees on Human Rights and on Security and Defence, and of the Conference of Delegation Chairs issued a statement on the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic for the EU’s external action. They especially thanked all the staff who is working in the front lines fighting the pandemic: “We also thank those on the front lines, fighting the pandemic and working tirelessly and selflessly: we express our deepest gratitude to the doctors and the nurses, humanitarian workers, and all of those who ensure that essential services are still being provided. We welcome the support provided by armed forces throughout the EU to public health services, in particular in the field of cross-border cooperation”.
After meeting commanders of EU military and civilian missions and operations on Thursday 23 April, Nathalie Loiseau, the Chair of the Sub-Committee on Security and Defence (SEDE) underlined: “Our first concern is and must always be the health and safety of the European Union’s personnel deployed in CSDP (Common Security and Defence Policy) missions and operations”.
On 28 April, the European Parliament think tank published a briefing by Tania Lattici: “The role of the armed forces in the fight against coronavirus”.
In the briefing you can find both summary and figures on the activities carried out by the armed forces in response to COVID-19. As stated in the analysis, the COVID-19 pandemic largely challenged society’s view of the role of military personnel who have been among the first responders in this crisis. Both EU Member States and the whole world deployed their armed forces to assist authorities and citizens in the fight against the pandemic.
In this regard, current EU defence initiatives could see the EU being better prepared to face future pandemics among other threats. This represents one of the reasons why it is important not to reduce the EU defence budget.
On 6 May 2020, during the EU-Western Balkans Zagreb summit, EU leaders focused on the future relations and cooperation to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. The EU actively supported Western Balkans to tackle the COVID-19 outbreak and its impact on societies and economies. In particular, the EU delivered a package of over EUR 3.3 billion and provided protective personal equipment and testing material.
Furthermore, on this occasion EU leaders adopted the Zagreb declaration, with which the Western Balkans partners have aligned themselves.
Further information are available here.
On 12 May 2020, Defence Ministers held a video conference. Ministers discussed the security and defence implications of the Covid-19 pandemic, focusing in particular on the crucial role played by armed forces in supporting civilian actors and providing cross-border support among member states. HRVP Borrell said: “The Covid-19 pandemic will very likely deteriorate our security environment in the years to come, which only increases the need for stronger EU security and defence.”
In the Chairman newsletter of the EU Military Committee (Mar-Apr 2020), Gen. Claudio Graziano, writes that “At EU level, we promptly reacted to ensure our duty of care towards our staff, both in Brussels, in delegations, but moreover in Operations and Missions, with a series of guidelines aiming at striking a balance between operational continuity and safety for our personnel, which remains on top of our priorities. In fact, the welfare of our men and women, our most valuable strength, must be guaranteed at all costs.”
In June 2020, the European Parliament published a briefing on reviewing social and employment policy recommendations made by European and international organisations in relation to the coronavirus crisis. The European Parliament Think Tank also published information on CSDP missions and coronavirus .
In June 2020, the European Commission published a directive amending Annex III to the Biological Agents Directive 2000/54/EC to classify COVID-19 as a biological agent known to infect humans. A EUROMIL factsheet about the process and next steps is available here.
The European Parliament Think Tank analysed the states of emergencies in different member states in response to the COVID-19 pandemic (also regulating the use of the armed forces), they are available here, here, here and here.
The European Parliament Think Tank published a briefing on EU Public Health Policy and an in depth-analysis on Ten opportunities for Europe post-coronavirus: Exploring potential for progress in EU policy-making, featuring amongst others security and defence, health as well as the future of work. It also published a study “Towards a more resilient Europe post-coronavirus: An initial mapping of structural risks facing the EU“.
In summer 2020, the European Parliament published a briefing on “How the COVID-19 crisis has affected security and defence-related aspects for the EU“.
In September 2020, the European Parliament published a briefing on “Upholding human rights in Europe during the pandemic”.
The EU Agency for Fundamental Rights has published EU country studies and bulletins on the fundamental rights protection in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. The project outlines some measures EU Member States have put in place to protect public health during the COVID-19 pandemic. The first bulletin is available here. The second report is available here. The third report is available here. The fourth report is available here. The FRA has also called for protection of workers’ fundamental rights in tackling impact of fundamental rights.
EU-OSHA published a webpage “Healthy Workplaces Stop the Pandemic” with guidance documents aimed at supporting employers in the provision of a safe and healthy working environment for employees. The guidance for the workplace published by WHO, CDC, ECDC and HSE is available at the following link.
On 15 April 2020, NATO Defence Ministers held a videoconference to decide the Alliance’s next steps in the fight against Covid-19.
They discussed about:
- their ongoing efforts to ensure NATO uses its military resources, equipment and strategic airlift capability most effectively. As stated by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg “While we continue to take all the necessary measures to protect our armed forces, our operational readiness remains undiminished”
- the importance of countering disinformation both from state and non-state actors
- the long-term implications and the geo-political effects of COVID-19 and how NATO prepares for it. Ministers agreed a set of recommendations to strengthen our resilience.
The press conference following the virtual meeting is available at the following page.
NATO’s Response to the COVID-19 pandemic can be found in this factsheet, updated as of 14 April 2020.
Furthermore, NATO offers a LibGuide with all the information on the political and national security consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. Some highlights, updated to 4 April 2020, of the Allied nations’ activities to support the fight against COVID-19 can be found here.
All the latest news concerning NATO’s approach to COVID-19 are available at the following page.
On 14 May 2020 the NATO Military Committee held a virtual meeting in Chiefs of Defence format. They discussed the Alliance’s ongoing missions and operations, future planning and requirements as well as the current global Covid-19 crisis, its impact on allied activities and NATO’s support to the response efforts. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg stressed that security challenges have not diminished because of COVID-19 and NATO must continue to ensure that the health crisis does not turn into a security crisis.
NATO measures and mechanisms have already facilitated:
over 150 missions to support and transport medical personnel, supplies, and treatment capabilities;
the construction of more than 50 field hospitals and alternate care facilities;
and the addition of more than 35,000 treatment beds;
supported by the deployment of the deployment of 5,000 military medical professionals in support of civil authorities;
numerous international aero-medical evacuations with critical care teams;
And more than 3,500 Allied citizens are repatriated from around the world.
In June 2020, the European Parliamentary Research Service (EPRS) published a fact sheet on NATO’s response in the fight against coronavirus.
In May 2020, UN leads call to protect most vulnerable from mental health crisis during and after COVID-19.
OHCHR opened a page to provide a guidance on the respect of human rights during COVID-19, including economic, social, civil and political rights.
The April UN policy brief “COVID-19 and Human Rights. We are all in this together” shows how COVID-19 is affecting human rights and protection in all continents and thereby delivers six key human rights messages in response to the pandemic.
In May 2020, UN Human Rights published guidance on civic space and COVID-19.
In September 2020, the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedoms of peaceful assembly and of association, M. Clément Voule, published a set of indicators to measure State’s compliance with international standards regarding civic space, peaceful assembly, and political participation during public health emergencies.
The Council of Europe released an information document to provide governments with a toolkit for dealing with the present unprecedented and massive scale sanitary crisis in a way that respects the fundamental values of democracy, rule of law and human rights.
On 22 April 2020, the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe expressed its sadness at the suffering and bereavement caused in Europe and elsewhere in the world by the COVID-19 pandemic during the 1374th meeting of the Ministers’ Deputies. The declaration is available here.
Daems, President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, pointed out the “red lines” as well as basic guarantees of the rule of law that a democracy should never cross, such as the right to life or the ban on torture and slavery. He warns that the COVID-19 emergency measures fast-tracked by governments around Europe should not become “the new normal”. The full speech is available here.
In April 2020, the European Committee of Social Rights (ECSR) issued a statement of interpretation
on the right to protection of health in times of pandemic.
On 28 April, ILO published an article on the impact of COVID-19 on mental health for many workers such as health workers, people who remotely work from home, people who lost their job, people who are working reduced hours or are facing cuts in their wages and people with disabilities.
Military personnel should be included among those workers, as the armed forces are daily facing huge stress by carrying out challenging activities for which they have no specific training. These “unusual” tasks can have consequences on their mental health during and after their performances. This is one of the reason why military personnel should be represented in trade unions and professional associations, as any other worker.
ILO issued social protection responses to the COVID-19 crisis and called to strengthen social protection systems. Further information available here. As stated by Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General: “The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the urgent need for strong national programmes to protect the health and safety of health workers, medical professionals, emergency responders, and the many other workers risking their lives on our behalf.”
ILO used the “World Day for Safety and Health at Work” to launch a campaign on the improvement of safe practices in workplace and the role of occupational safety and health (OSH) measures in response to COVID-19.
In this respect, ILO published the “SafeDay report” to highlight the measures needed to prevent work-related safety and health risks caused by the pandemic, including the risk of contagion, stress and psychosocial diseases. The report particularly addresses social dialogue, as a powerful and unique means to ensure safe and decent working conditions of workers, especially during this global health crisis.
ILO Policy Brief on the World of Work and COVID-19, released on 19 June 2020.
Trade Unions and Civil Society Organisations
The ETUC, with the support of the ETUI and and ETUC affiliated organisations, launched a series of ‘COVID-19 Watch’ briefing notes about the impacts of COVID-19 on labour markets, workers and citizens across Europe. The ETUC also maintains a website on “Trade unions and Coronavirus“.
On the International Workers’ Memorial Day, the ITUC and its Global Unions partners called for COVID-19 to be classified as an occupational disease in order to ensure stronger workplace protections and access to compensation as well as to medical care.
The International Organisation of Employers and the International Trade Union Confederation released a “Joint Statement on COVID-19“. They “underline the critical need for social dialogue at national and multilateral levels to design measures to overcome this impact”. They indeed call for urgent action and, as mentioned in the one of their stated points, they “stress in the strongest terms the important role that social dialogue and social partners play in the control of the virus at the workplace and beyond […]. Joint responsibility is needed for dialogue to foster stability”.
The European Movement International published a position paper on a European Union
Response to COVID-19 in June 2020.
On 7 July 2020, the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (International IDEA), with the support of the EU, launched the Global Monitor of COVID-19´s Impact on Democracy and Human Rights. The website is available here.