Borrel to Vucic: EU doing all it can to help Serbia (RTS/RTV/Tanjug)
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic spoke today on the telephone with the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell, primarily to discuss the measures taken to combat the spread of the infectious disease COVID-19. They agreed that to this end – cooperation and coordination of measures between the Western Balkans and the European Union are necessary. Vucic told Borell that we are counting on the EU assistance in the fight against the disease, as well as in eliminating its economic consequences. In this regard, the conversation was dominated by two key topics. The first was how to help Serbia economically after the coronavirus crisis, and Vucic said that we hope we will have the same treatment as member states as well as the access to different EU funds, which would help the Serbian economy recover. The second topic was the procurement of medical equipment and supplies to combat COVID-19. Vucic welcomed the decision of the European Commission to form emergency stocks of medical equipment and materials worth 50 million Euros, which will also be available to Serbia through the Civil Protection Mechanism. Borell said the EU is doing all it can to help Serbia, especially in the procurement of medical equipment. He briefed the Serbian President that the European institutions are preparing the option for the countries in the process of accession negotiations with the EU to have access to the EU Solidarity Fund, which is now available in case of public health crises, not just natural disasters, such as was the case earlier. Vucic and Borell also discussed the regional situation and relations between Belgrade and Pristina.
Norway donates Serbia five million Euros for fight against coronavirus (RTS/Tanjug)
Norwegian Ambassador to Serbia Jørn Erling Gjelstad pointed out that Norway is a true friend of Serbia and wants to help the Serbian people, although it is facing the most serious challenge so far. Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic thanked Norway and Norwegian people for the aid of five million Euros, which will be earmarked for medical purposes and added that the country would help Serbia to acquire more respirators. “I thank the Norwegian state and the people, as well as the Norwegian Embassy in Belgrade for the great friendly help and support they provide for us in these difficult times for our country. I thank them, first and foremost, for their respect for our country, for the appreciation they show for our people,” said Vucic after the meeting, and stressed that, despite being endangered by the coronavirus, Norway had found sufficient strength and willingness to help Serbia. “We hope that our Norwegian friends will provide us with a few dozen respirators, which will be a huge contribution to saving lives,” said Vucic. Speaking about the measures taken by the Serbian government to combat the spread of the coronavirus, he stressed that his job and that of everyone in the Serbian government is to save the lives of citizens. “Let them be angry about the drastic measures afterwards, but first let them survive. Now we have to be united in the fight for life, and that is why we are doing all this,” emphasized Vucic.
Coronavirus epidemic officially declared in Serbia (RTS/Tanjug)
Serbian Health Minister Zlatibor Loncar has issued a decree declaring an epidemic in Serbia caused by coronavirus, which was published in the Official Gazette. The order states: “The epidemic of the infectious disease COVID-19 is being declared, an epidemic of a greater epidemiological significance – for the territory of the Republic of Serbia. This order shall enter into force on the day of its publication in the Official Gazette of the Republic of Serbia,” it is stated in the Official Gazette. The order was issued on Thursday under number 512-02-00016/2020-10.
Vucic: Curfew will be extended (B92)
In his address, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic announced that the curfew in Serbia will last longer, but that more will be discussed over the weekend. “Curfew will not only be from 8 pm until 5 am,” the President points out. “We have exceeded the figure of 100 infected, out of which 55 are in hospital, 6 are in serious condition and are on respirators,” says Vucic. “We expect in the days and weeks to come a further accelerated increase in the number of those infected. Our capacities are almost full at the Clinic for Infectious Diseases. We are moving to Dragisa Misovic Hospital”, the president said, adding: “Two patients were released because they twice turned out to be negative. But many, many more are coming.” “The hospitals are getting fuller, the doctors are being heroic. The military and the police are doing a very good job and I believe we will be able to help the doctors, even though they are very tired,” he said. Three more are expected to be released tomorrow if they prove negative for the second time. “Why did I say this number of 100 is important? That’s because in several countries it has started to increase geometrically since that moment. You can control it harder, it happened in all countries. An hour ago in Belgrade we were able to control it, we were delivered seven Swedish-made respirators”.
“All border crossings are closed and no one can enter the Republic of Serbia except for trucks,” the president said. He asked people to respect the prohibition on movement.
Serbian Army opens camp in Morovic (Tanjug/RTS)
The Serbian Army has opened a camp in Morovic to accommodate citizens of the Republic of Serbia who are returning from abroad. The Serbian Defense Ministry, with the Internal Ministry and competent sanitary services, will be determining who will enter the camp in accordance with the assessment of doctors, along with those who are our citizens but do not have a registered place of residence in our country. Defense Minister Aleksandar Vulin and Chief-of-General-Staff of the Serbian Army General Milan Mojsilovic visited the camp and once again made an appeal to citizens to obey instructions and listen to the authorities in order to protect themselves and others. “In line with the orders of the commander-in-chief and in line with the rules governing the state of emergency, the Serbian Army has established a reception camp for all those who either do not have a registered residence in the territory of the Republic of Serbia, but are our citizens, or whom our doctors at the border appraise might become a health risk,” Vulin stressed. Such persons, Vulin added, will be placed in the reception camp in Morovic, where they will have to go through an appropriate period of isolation and intensive medical monitoring. In this way their health will be protected, as will the health of all citizens of Serbia. “Everyone who thinks they should come to the Republic of Serbia must also accept the laws and rules in force in the Republic of Serbia, both during and after the state of emergency. The Defense Ministry, together with the Serbian Army, the Internal Ministry and members of the border police, and of course with the competent health services, will take care of the health of the people who will be in the camp in Morovic,” he said. According to Vulin, the Serbian Army will, as needed, open several more quarantine camps also for those coming from countries affected by the virus. “In that way we will enable everyone to enjoy healthcare, but without in any way endangering the health of all other citizens of Serbia,” Vulin said. Deputy Commander of the Joint Operations Command Major General Ilija Todorov said that in accordance with decisions and orders, the Serbian Army set up the camp in Morovic in the shortest amount of time. “All conditions have been created here in this camp, not only for life and work, but also for control and prevention and for those situations that may surprise us. In this sense, we are ready to continue to carry out our tasks in accordance with the decision and order of our commander-in-chief,” General Todorov stressed. The tent settlement in Morovic is ready and can accommodate up to 500 people to whom the Army will be providing healthcare, accommodation, and food.
Taking part in the tour of the camp in Morovic were also Assistant Director General of Police General Slobodan Malesic, Commander of the 1st Brigade of the Serbian Army Brigadier General Zoran Naskovic and representatives of the Military Health Directorate.
New 15 cases of coronavirus in Serbia – 118 in total (B92)
Up to 8.00 am in the Republic of Serbia, 15 new cases of coronavirus were registered, increasing the total number of infected to 118 people. From the last report until 8 pm, 20 March, samples of 39 individuals were tested, 15 of which were positive and 24 negative for the new corona virus.
Of the fifteen confirmed cases since the last report, five have been hospitalized, but without complications, in good general condition, while ten have less severe clinical picture and are at home. By 8 am on March 20, 2020, a total of 545 individuals who met the case definition criteria were tested at the national reference laboratory of the Torlak Institute.
Five new cases of coronavirus confirmed in B&H, 69 in total (N1)
Five new cases of the new coronavirus were confirmed Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) in Konjic city, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 69, said the Public Health Institute of Federation of B&H on Friday morning. Tests for Mostar city are yet to be published.
Nine new cases of Coronavirus infection registered in FB&H, total number of infected persons increases to 18 (N1)
The Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (FB&H) registered eight new cases of infection with the new coronavirus COVID-19 on Thursday, which means that the total number of infected persons in the FB&H increased to 18. Two infected persons were registered in Mostar. They are linked to the first cluster in this city, given the fact that they were in touch with the wife of the first infected person who also tested positive for COVID-19. At the same time, there are more than 400 persons in self-isolation in Mostar. Doctor at the University-Clinical Hospital in Mostar Jurica Arapovic noted that health condition of the infected persons is currently stable, but the number of cases is most likely to increase as early as Friday, given the fact that the virus actually attacked the healthcare system.
FB&H Civil Protection HQ adopts four new orders (Hayat)
The FB&H Civil Protection Headquarters adopted new orders on Thursday. During a press conference at the FB&H Civil Protection Headquarters’ building in Sarajevo, it was stated that four new proposal orders have been adopted. These proposed orders foresee: formation of triage points with sanitary questionnaires which would be filled before entering healthcare facilities in the entire FB&H; stoppage of work of all public transportation companies in this entity, which excludes taxi companies; stoppage of work of all markets and shops in the FB&H, which excludes groceries shops, shops with hygienic products, fish markets, pharmacies, specialized shops for medical and veterinary products, agricultural pharmacies, gas stations, kiosks, bakeries, dry cleaners, specialized shops for orthopedic and other supplies, specialized shops with children’s equipment, shops with animal food and products, and construction materials shops; and placement of all people serving prison sentences in mandatory isolation. The FB&H Civil Protection Headquarters will hold another meeting on Friday and analyze the situation, deciding if additional measures need to be adopted.
Sixteen new cases of coronavirus infection confirmed in RS on Thursday, total number in the RS increased to 45 (RTRS)
Republika Srpska (RS) registered 16 new cases of infection with the new coronavirus COVID-19 on Thursday, which means that the total number of infected persons in the RS increased to 45. Twelve patients come from Banja Luka and one from Ribnik, Kozarska Dubica, Prijedor and Bijeljina each. Up to 9,850 persons who arrived from the virus-affected areas are currently under medical supervision, while 330 persons stopped being under medical supervision.
B&H AF and B&H Border police define eight border crossings to set up quarantine tents (ATV)
The B&H Ministry of Defense stated on Thursday that members of the B&H Armed Forces (AF) and members of the B&H Border Police have defined eight border crossings at which members of the AF will use their own capacities and set up tents, beds, carry out disinfection of the tents and provide physical security of the tents until further notice. All B&H citizens who enter B&H will be put in the quarantines, i.e. in the tents for 14 days in order to prevent spreading of the Coronavirus. The reporter confirmed that tents were set up close to the border crossing Gradiska at the location of former customs terminal, i.e. the former parking for trucks and reported that there is water supply and electricity. The five tents were already disinfected, beds were put in the tents and the capacity is around 200 people. The reporter noted that Gradiska, Brod and Samac are the most frequent border crossings in terms of traffic and thus, the tents will be first set on these locations. According to announcements, the area where the tents in Gradiska were situated will be closed as members of the B&H AF will be in charge of security of the location. Serb member of the B&H Presidency Milorad Dodik assessed that the first round of people may enter the quarantine during the weekend. Dodik added: “We are aware that it is not summer yet and that conditions are extraordinary, but we must protect our citizens who are in the country which is why we cannot be flexible at all”. Dodik said that the quarantine is a rigorous measure, reminding that the virus entered B&H from Italy but now, new cases of infection come from Austria, Germany and Slovenia. Dodik added that it is obvious that many B&H citizens will soon be deported from the West because many of them lost their jobs due to the crisis caused by the Coronavirus and thus remained without healthcare insurance which is why the quarantine will be full. RS President Zeljka Cvijanovic said that they are aware of challenges that this type of accommodation is creating. Cvijanovic stated: “Of course it will be challenging to organize life within this kind of the quarantine, but our institutions know their job, competences are clear, procedures are clear. Therefore, we expect the engagement of our health services and of course, the RS Civil Protection Administration, local communities in line with their competences and of course, the Ministry of Interior (of the RS)”.
Podzic confirms that B&H AF will be deployed to eight border crossings (Dnevni avaz)
After Thursday’s meeting of Chief of the Joint Staff of B&H Armed Forces, Lieutenant General Senad Masovic and Director of B&H Border Police, Zoran Galic the officials concluded that B&H Armed Forces will be deployed to eight border crossings, where they will erect quarantine tents and supervise them. In a statement to the daily, B&H Defense Minister Sifet Podzic confirmed this information and said that these border crossings are Izacic, Bijaca, Bosanski Brod, Bosanska Gradiska, Raca, Sepak, Vardiste and Zupci. Podzic explained that quarantine tents will have bigger or smaller capacities, depending of frequency of the border crossing. He explained that immediately after B&H Presidency reached a decision on engagement of B&H AF, he talked to Security Minister Fahrudin Radoncic who is coordinating all activities and they agreed about details.
Dodik, Covic, Izetbegovic and Radoncic meet with Sattler to discuss current situation caused by COVID-19 (N1)
Member of the B&H Presidency and SNSD leader Milorad Dodik, speaker of the B&H House of Peoples (HoP) and HDZ B&H leader Dragan Covic, B&H HoP deputy speaker and SDA leader Bakir Izetbegovic, B&H Minister of Security and SBB B&H leader Fahrudin Radoncic and Head of the EU Delegation (EUD) to B&H Johann Sattler held a meeting in Sarajevo on Thursday. The meeting was dedicated to the current situation caused by the new coronavirus COVID-19. Radoncic confirmed the information that they held the meeting with Sattler. He noted that the B&H Border Police will be able to conduct all of their activities at the part of the border with Serbia, which was confirmed by a letter from the Republika Srpska (RS) Ministry of Interior (MoI). The letter reads that they will not disturb the work of the B&H Border Police at the border, but they will only run the routine checks ordered by the crisis headquarters in the RS. Another important thing refers to the import of medicines from the EU. “I insisted that Mr. Sattler helps us by his authority, together with the Italian Ambassador to B&H (Nicola Minasi) who was also present, to keep the corridors we made for our trucks in order to avoid deficits. We asked that their European factories which produce medicines – the pharmaceutical industry – annul the ban on supplying our market because it could put us into a difficult position. We were given some promises in this context,” Radoncic explained. The reporter noted that Sattler also made some promises in terms of Radoncic’s statement that B&H also needs 1,000 breathing machines, 500,000 test kits and one million surgical face masks and gloves each. Chairman of B&H Council of Ministers, Zoran Tegeltija also met with Sattler discussing the current situation in B&H and the region, concerning the COVID-19 pandemic. Sattler expressed readiness for EU assistance in acquiring of medical equipment for healthcare institutions in B&H. Ambassador said that the EU will prepare a special program of support for B&H economy and countries of the western Balkans, after the crisis with pandemic is over.
Turkey to help B&H with medical materials (RTRS/Dnevni avaz)
Serb member of the B&H Presidency Milorad Dodik talked over the phone with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday. The two officials discussed the current situation in B&H, Turkey and other parts of the world amid the coronavirus pandemic. Dodik and Erdogan agreed that this global problem requires general measures and responses. Erdogan promised to Dodik that Turkey will help B&H in the form of medical materials necessary for the fight against the new coronavirus COVID-19, as well as free export of medical materials from Turkey to B&H. SDA leader and Deputy Speaker of B&H House of Peoples, Bakir Izetbegovic also talked with Erdogan discussing the current situation caused by COVID-19 pandemic. The Turkish President promised that Turkey will send aid to B&H in form of medical equipment. “Last week, my Cabinet, based on the needs of our expert medical teams, drafted a specification and submitted Turkish Healthcare Ministry with appeal for aid. Last night, President Erdogan phoned me and stated that this aid for B&H will be approved. On behalf of B&H citizens I thanked Turkish people and him personally,” said Izetbegovic.
Turkovic calls on heads of diplomatic-consular missions accredited in B&H to help B&H purchase respirators and other necessary medical equipment (Nezavisne novine)
B&H Minister of Foreign Affairs Bisera Turkovic held a video-conference with heads of diplomatic-consular missions accredited in B&H, and called on them to help B&H purchase respirators and other medical equipment necessary to combat the outbreak of coronavirus. The daily reported that the video-conference was attended by 55 representatives of diplomatic-consular missions accredited in B&H. Turkovic informed participants of the conference that B&H has set up a telephone line and an e-mail address for communication with and assistance to B&H citizens currently living outside of the country, as well as foreigners currently residing in B&H.
B&H Border Police Director passes decision on temporary suspension of five police officers of Brod unit (BHT1)
B&H Border Police Director Zoran Galic has passed a decision on temporary suspension of five police officers – members of B&H Border Police unit in Brod. They are charged with making possible for several persons to enter the country at the border crossing in Brod in exchange for money. A detention in duration of one month was proposed for border police officer Rajo Kikic from Brezik near Brcko because he seriously jeopardized health of B&H citizens with his behavior. Kikic is suspected of taking bribe from three people who travelled from Austria to B&H to let them enter the country without ordering them to undergo any kind of sanitary or health examination.
In Croatia, 113 people are infected with coronaviruses (N1/Hina)
In Croatia, 113 people are infected with coronaviruses, Health Minister Vili Beros said, after 8 new cases have been confirmed. Croatia’s first coronavirus fatality was confirmed on Thursday. The victim was an elderly owner of a tavern in the town of Brtonigla in Istria who was in self-isolation after reporting first flu-like symptoms on Monday. According local media citing his family, the man suddenly developed breathing problems, fell ill, and died on Wednesday. Although the exact cause of death is still unclear, health authorities confirmed that he has tested positive for the virus post-mortem, and are officially counting him as the epidemic’s first victim.
The number of infected in Montenegro increased to 13 (RTCG)
The Institute of Public Health confirmed three new cases of coronavirus last night. Thus, the number of infected in Montenegro increased to 13. Director of the Institute of Public Health, Boban Mugosa, reminded that two new cases of coronavirus were discovered this yesterday morning. “Tonight, we discovered three more, five in total today, which brings the number of detected coronavirus cases in Montenegro to 13. These last three cases are related to the first case of COVID 19 detection in Montenegro,” said Mugosa. This indicates, he noted, that the epidemic is spreading. “This indicates that we did not respect what was recommended – to keep the social distance, to take care of ourselves, but also of others,” Mugosha said. He said that recommendations and orders had to be obeyed. There are 4,369 people under medical supervision in Montenegro who have been in the area with widespread transmission for the past 14 days, Sanja Medenica of the Public Health Institute told TVCG. “We have quite enough tests for the current epidemic level, and another 2,000 tests are expected to come these days,” Medenica said. The Ministry of Health issued an order last night, following a session of the National Infectious Diseases Coordination Body, to order new interim measures to protect citizens from the spread of coronaviruses and more recommendations. Among other things, it prohibits the operation of most commercial buildings, suspends taxi transportation …The operation of commercial establishments is prohibited, except pharmacies and establishments where food, beverages, hygiene products, motor fuels, construction products, plant protection products and planting products, animal nutrition and treatment products are traded. Aimed in preventing the spread of the coronary virus, Capital city has brought interim measures involving park and park forests. As they recall, they have previously locked parks with children’s playgrounds, that is, Children’s Park (near KBC) and King’s park in the center of Podgorica. “With these measures, we want to point out how important, at this point, is to keep our citizens at home and safe. This measure will be applied from 5 pm today until the end of the Order of the government of Montenegro,” it is said.
DSC will consider information on the epidemiological situation (RTCG)
Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic will chair the session of the Defense and Security Council, which will be held today at Villa Gorica in Podgorica. As announced, a separate item on the agenda will include consideration of information on the current epidemiological situation in Montenegro and the measures taken to prevent the spread of the KOVID-19 virus. The Council had earlier, at a telephone session, decided to engage members of the Montenegrin Army in providing physical protection for facilities subject to quarantine measures. The engagement of members of the Army began yesterday. The government stressed that non-compliance with the measures is subject to criminal liability. Prime Minister Dusko Markovic,said that government “isn’t considering the possibility of declaring the state of emergency in Montenegro”. “Currently, that’s not on the agenda,” he said. PM also said that he had ordered the Police Department and its special units to engage in controls and surveillance in public places.
Filipche: Skopje Health Center to open coronavirus testing sites next week (MIA)
Coronavirus testing stations are to start operating as part of the Skopje Health Center next week, Health Minister Venko Filipche told a press conference on Thursday. According to him, the goal is to test more widely, given that there already is local coronavirus transmission in the city. “The goal is initial contact tracing, as these individuals pose the greatest risk for spreading the disease” Filipche said. Therefore, he noted, it’s very important that people are aware, especially those who may have been in contact or who know that they may be at risk. “I believe this is an extremely important part of the entire system of fight against the virus,” Filipche pointed out. He added that there are cases when citizens don’t adhere to self-isolation measures, noting that such cases will be heavily sanctioned.
Nineteen new coronavirus cases in Macedonia, a total of 67 confirmed cases (MIA)
The Ministry of Health reports that the state of coronavirus in the country by 10 pm is 19 newly infected with coronavirus. That puts the number of patients diagnosed in the country at 67.
The government decided late Thursday that all markets, pharmacies, banks and posts designate doorkeepers in order to control the entry and the number of people in the facility, thus ensuring the minimum distance between persons indoors and outdoors. The government has also banned gatherings of more than five people in parks and other public spaces, with the police and army intensifying field controls. In addition, the government has banned access to Vodno hill overseeing Skopje between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. The police will intensify controls in weekend homes and villas in villages surrounding the capital to prevent any large gatherings and parties.
COVID 19: Opposition leader sends letter to WHO office to seek assistance (TemA)
The leader of the Democratic Party Lulzim Basha has sent a letter to the head of the World Health Organization office in Tirana Raul Gonzalez regarding the coronavirus situation in the country. In his letter, Basha says: “Being aware of the short supply of equipment that our authorities have at their disposal, I’d like to ask you to assist Albanian authorities and the country with as many testing kits as possible”. The democrat leader added that by increasing number of tests is the only way to see if people are infected with the virus and to isolate them in time in order to contain the spread of the virus. “We would be very grateful to you if you could assist us in securing a considerable amount of protective clothing and other equipment for our medical personnel,” the democrat chairman wrote in his letter addressed to the head of WHO office in Tirana Raul Gonzalez.
Total number of COVID-19 cases in Albania hits 70 (ADN)
Deputy Minister of Health and Social Protection, Mira Rakacolli announced this Friday, 6 new coronavirus cases in Albania, bringing the total number to 70. Five of the new cases are from Tirana and one is from Patosi. Furthermore, the Deputy Minister informed also that 35 of the infected are being treated at Infectious Diseases Ward.
Total number of infected according to cities:
- Tirana 50 cases
- Durresi 5 cases
- Lushnja 2 cases
- Elbasani 2 cases
- Fieri 7 cases
- Rrogozhina 2 cases
- Kavaja 2 cases
INTERNATIONAL MEDIA SOURCES
The Quiet Success of Trump’s Politically Appointed Ambassadors in Europe (The Daily Signal, by James Carafano and Daniel Kochis, 4 March 2020)
Article II of the U.S. Constitution states that the executive “shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors.” Unlike parliamentary systems where oftentimes civil servants fill the roles of key ambassadorships, (a recent example being the appointment of Karen Pierce as the new British ambassador to the U.S.), U.S. ambassadorships are oftentimes filled by individuals outside the civil service, and at times outside the world of politics and diplomacy. For better or for worse, presidents of both parties have throughout the republic leveraged coveted ambassadorship appointments to reward allies, donors, and famous Americans. President Donald Trump in this respect has been quite conventional, sending political appointments to important posts around the globe. What may be surprising is the success some of the president’s political appointments in Europe have found. In fact, some of Trump’s European ambassadors have made a significant splash, helping to disseminate the president’s policy and propel forward initiatives important to the White House. The recent appointment of U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell as acting director of national intelligence, highlights the reason he and some of his fellow ambassadors in Europe have met with success: each has the confidence of the president. As ambassador to Germany, Grenell has served as a conduit of the president’s views on issues from Germany’s low defense spending, to Nord Stream 2, to European companies doing business with Iran. Grenell’s style is similar to the president’s and has ruffled some feathers in Berlin. However, his tenure has met with notable successes, including the Bundestag adopting a motion in December to ban the Iranian-backed terrorist group Hezbollah. German defense spending is on an upward trajectory, with a 25% increase over the past three years. In addition, Grenell’s leadership on the issue of 5G has helped give political cover to many within Chancellor Angela Merkel’s own party who oppose the involvement of Chinese companies in German 5G rollout. The Western Balkans are a key focus area of the Trump administration. The appointment of Grenell in October served as special envoy for peace negotiations between Serbia and Kosovo, and underscores the importance the president places on normalizing relations. A few weeks ago, Kosovo and Serbia signed an agreement to develop rail and road connections between their capitals, which follows on the heels of a January agreement to restore a direct air link between the nations. Grenell is not the only Trump political appointee who has found success in his role in Europe. Georgette Mosbacher, U.S. ambassador to Poland, has since August 2018 helped oversee the strengthening of relations with a crucial ally after years of Poland being held at arm’s length by the Obama administration. In June 2019, Trump and Polish President Andrzej Duda signed an agreement strengthening security cooperation, and laying the groundwork for an additional rotational deployment of 1,000 American troops to Poland. In addition, Poland—which spends 2% of gross domestic product on defense—has prioritized purchases of American equipment, including a $4.75 billion deal for two Patriot missile batteries, a $414 million deal to purchase 20 high-mobility artillery rocket systems. Finally, a month ago, Poland signed a $4.6 billion agreement to purchase 35 F-35 aircraft. Another Trump appointee who has quietly forged impressive success is U.S. Ambassador to NATO Kay Bailey Hutchison. When Hutchison was appointed in 2017, only three other NATO allies spent 2% of GDP on defense. Last year, that number jumped to eight (with the U.S. as the 9th). Indeed, 2019 marked the fifth consecutive year spending among NATO allies (excluding U.S.) increased, a 4.6% increase in real terms. By the end 2020, U.S. NATO allies will have invested $130 billion more in defense since 2016. In the United Kingdom, Ambassador Woody Johnson is helping reinvigorate the U.S.-U.K. special relationship, greeting the U.K.’s decision to withdraw from the European Union with optimism, and helping lay the groundwork in London for a U.S.-U.K. free trade agreement. Trump has also been pleased with U.S. Ambassador to the Netherlands Pete Hoekstra, who the president last August described as “doing a fantastic job in the Netherlands right now.” The president’s A Team have in particular gotten behind the administration’s full-court press on the Three Seas Initiative, helping to build support in Europe for a project that will build strengthened transatlantic business, energy, and geopolitical ties to the region. The initiative also helps counterbalance Chinese and Russian efforts to forge inroads in the region. Last month, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced a $1 billion pledge to support the Three Seas Initiative, and the administration remains hard at work pushing to ensure success in a critical year. Trump’s ambassadors are continuing to work behind the scenes to solidify support for the initiative, building momentum, and encouraging nations to contribute to the Three Seas Investment Fund.
Trump’s policy of engagement with Europe has already met with notable success, something the administration hopes to build on in 2020. The role of ambassadors on the ground may be undervalued, however. So long as the A Team retains his confidence, they will remain crucially important to implementing the president’s policies in Europe.
James Jay Carafano, a leading expert in national security and foreign policy challenges, is The Heritage Foundation’s vice president for foreign and defense policy studies, E. W. Richardson fellow, and director of the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International Studies.
Daniel Kochis is a policy analyst for European affairs at The Heritage Foundation’s Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom.
China Casts Itself as Global Savior While U.S. and EU Focus on Virus at Home (Foreign Policy, by Morten Soendergaard Larsen, Robbie Gramer, 19 March 2020)
As Western countries battle with their own domestic epidemic, a newly stabilized China seizes a chance to portray itself as the emerging superpower. Will it work?
erbian President Aleksandar Vucic was emotional as he gave a press conference on the global coronavirus pandemic this week, bluntly naming which countries Serbia could count on for support—and which ones it couldn’t. At the top of the list wasn’t any European country, despite Serbia’s long-standing goal to join the European Union, but China, the country where the new coronavirus originated. “By now you all understand that great international solidarity does not exist. European solidarity does not exist,” Vucic said. “It was a fairy tale on paper. Today I sent a special letter,” he paused briefly and swallowed audibly, “to the only ones who can help, and that is China.” He then said he had asked Chinese President Xi Jinping “not only as a dear friend, but as a brother” to provide Serbia sorely needed medical supplies denied by the EU. Vucic’s words amounted to a stinging rebuke of how the European Union has handled its response to the coronavirus outside its borders. But it also served as a warning sign to Western leaders that China is on the soft power offensive, scrambling to refurbish its image after botching the initial coronavirus response. The Chinese government’s mishandling of the coronavirus outbreak that began in Wuhan province—initially trying to cover it up, including arresting doctors who raised early alarm bells—helped lead to the global spread of the pandemic. But now, as cases within its own borders begin to ebb, Beijing is shipping sorely needed medical supplies and doctors worldwide, including to Italy and Iran, two of the countries hit hardest by the virus outside of China. That has led to a combination of praise, mistrust, and criticism from top Western officials and experts who see China’s pandemic response as reflective of its growing global clout, especially in the face of what critics characterize as stumbling responses by the EU and United States. “I commend them for sending supplies to Italy and Iran and impacted areas. … I think that’s a humanitarian effort, but they don’t do anything without the propaganda component,” Rep. Michael McCaul, the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, told Foreign Policy in an interview. “Remember, they covered this up for about two months where they could’ve been containing it better, and now the world is at risk,” he said. “I do think they need to be held accountable and responsible.” The Chinese government is trying to “establish itself as a global hero that saved many people both in and outside China,” Lee Seong-hyon, the director of the Center for Chinese Studies at the Sejong Institute in Seoul, told Foreign Policy. “China’s coming out strong with its PR, sensing, correctly, that this global epidemic is also a great opportunity to burnish China’s soft power credentials with Europe and [others]. On the other hand, America is not investing enough resources to help its traditional allies and friends, and not investing enough in this narrative war.” “China is very good at grasping any opportunity to move forward and showing they’re doing the right thing when other countries are distracted,” said Jean-Pierre Cabestan, a professor of government and international studies at Hong Kong Baptist University. U.S. officials have sought to keep the spotlight on China’s mishandling of the coronavirus outbreak as the root cause of the global pandemic—and rebuking Beijing for launching a campaign of misinformation and booting out U.S. journalists from the country. “The Chinese Communist Party didn’t get it right and put countless lives at risk as a result of that,” U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told Fox News in an interview. After scrambling to contain the outbreak within its own borders for months, China is now beginning to focus outside its own borders. “China is able to put its head back up and look around the world and find these opportunities to give support,” said John Delury, a professor of Chinese studies at Yonsei University in Seoul. “So, it looks like China’s out there helping the world, whereas the United States is in ‘America First’ mode,” he added. Besides Serbia, Italy, the nation currently hardest-hit besides China, has seen Chinese gear and experts arrive. Jack Ma, the billionaire founder of the Chinese e-commerce site Alibaba, has sent test kits and masks to both the United States and African countries. The narrative war started on Twitter when Zhao Lijian, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson, tried to blame the U.S. military for bringing the virus to Wuhan, a myth that is in stark contrast to the generally accepted story of the virus originating in one of the city’s many wet markets, which sell meat and live animals. This all came in response to U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s use of the controversial phrase “Wuhan virus” to describe the novel coronavirus. The two sides continue to level accusations at each other. “This is a time where we need a lot more international cooperation, and it is good that China is sharing their expertise. That’s actually the travesty of this narrative war, because it can impede the kind of real cooperation that desperately needs to occur,” Delury said. The U.S. response has exacerbated relations with Europe, already under strain for years under Trump, said Rachel Rizzo, an adjunct fellow at the Center for a New American Security, a Washington-based think tank. Trump blindsided his counterparts across the Atlantic when he announced travel restrictions to Europe on March 12. Several current and former officials familiar with the matter say European ambassadors in Washington were given no advance warning of the announcement. It came as the Trump administration quietly tried to acquire a German company developing a vaccine to the virus for exclusive U.S. access, angering European officials. “Trust in the U.S. has waned even further in the last couple of weeks, especially after the announcement of the travel restrictions that took European leaders by surprise,” Rizzo said. Still, no matter how many medical supplies Beijing sends abroad or how much it touts international cooperation, it can’t shake off the blame that it botched the initial handling of the virus, contributing to its global spread. Any goodwill the Chinese have bought “is temporary,” said Rizzo. “I think no matter how much China tries to help Europe, or anyone else for that matter, there will be a sense of resentment and anger,” Rizzo said. “I think this will reverberate and could have broad implications for the relationship between China and Europe going forward.” Some European nations might be more welcoming, though. Serbia has already pivoted toward China for a while now, and Belgrade’s streets are filled with facial recognition cameras created by the Chinese tech giant Huawei. Cabestan, the Hong Kong Baptist University professor, also said Italy has stood apart from other EU members by embracing China’s Belt and Road Initiative, and that Spain is standing in line to receive Chinese supplies and expertise when the epidemic there reaches a critical mass. “Sending a team of experts to Italy might get China some new friends. Spain is on the waiting list, so some Southern Europe countries might be more friendly to China. But they are not going to convince Brussels or London,” he said from his office in Hong Kong. Cabestan is also concerned about Beijing’s ulterior motives for sending experts to Europe. “There’s another thing that shouldn’t be overlooked, the fact that China is in a battle for putting together a vaccine or a drug to treat COVID, and that’s one of the reasons for sending teams outside of China, to see how the virus has evolved, to gather data,” he said.
Morten Soendergaard Larsen is a freelance journalist based in Seoul who writes about geopolitics.
Robbie Gramer is a diplomacy and national security reporter at Foreign Policy.