As NATO and its Command and Force Structure remains the Joint, Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Defence Centre of Excellence (JCBRN Defence COE) primary customer, the interaction with the European Union (EU) falls under NATO’s agenda and, as pointed out in the 2016 and 2018 NATO-EU Joint Declarations, is also part of the COE’s concept.
The JCBRN Defence COE established a concrete partnership with the EU HORIZON 2020 project, the well-known eNOTICE project, in 2017 and was the first amongst 25 NATO COEs to do so. The interaction with the EU has been undertaken as an initial way to reach out to other CBRN defence related EU projects, initiatives and platforms.
In 2020, the Centre’s interactive activities with the EU has been hampered by the COVID-19 pandemic as have many other planned meetings, trainings and events. But even under these circumstances, the interaction with the EU has continued to develop by other means and through the use of new tools.
This article aims to describe the Centre’s activities in this domain in 2020 and to provide an outlook into 2021.
The only eNOTICE Joint Activity (JA) in 2020 took place at the Middle East University (METU) in Ankara / TUR. (Fig. 1) The overall topic was how can virtual reality influence and develop future training activities. (Fig. 2)
As an example, previous themes and scenarios of Jas such as Bio Garden has been transformed into virtual reality training programs and impressively showed what is possible in the CBRN Defence related individual and collective training domain. (Fig. 3)
Additionally, during this JA the eNOTICE dissemination workshop at the INTERSCHUTZ fair in Hannover / DEU was planned. The representative of the JCBRN Defence COE (DDIR) developed and introduced a scenario-based discussion platform which was based on the cross-border CBRN incident scenarios introduced during the first JCBRN Defence COE’s Advisors Conference. The aim was and still is to transfer these JCBRN Defence COE’s civil-military cooperation ideas into the NATO-EU interaction domain which will be further developed during the upcoming JCBRN Defence COE Annual Conference scheduled for October 2021. As the INTERSCHUTZ fair was cancelled due to the COVID pandemic, these developed ideas were not lost and will most probably be picked up during this year’s upcoming JAs or similar formats.
Unfortunately, although the JA in Ankara was the only in-person meeting in 2020, the eNOTICE team adopted very quickly to the new situation caused by the pandemic and focused on how the network of CBRN training centres can become even more attractive to its participants and users. As a result, the web-based platform has been further developed now having a tool where training centres are able to interact which each other and are able to exchange best practices. Furthermore, a dissemination webinar in June, a sustainability orientated policy meeting in October and a COVID-19 focused webinar in September have been organised and were successfully conducted. The last one was the first time the focus was on reaching out to training centres as an offer to exchange their views and their best practices with other CBRN related training centres as well as with stakeholders in various EU CBRN projects.
For 2021 there are a couple of JAs planned, starting in April in Rieti / ITA and ending in Vyškov at the JCBRN Defence COE in November. In addition, we also continue to use online platforms, the next event is being planned for 24th February 2021. The UK Midland Police will conduct a webinar for all interested CBRN training centres and stakeholders from NATO CBRN related bodies and from the EU as well.
As the eNOTICE project will end in August 2022 the question of sustainability of the CBRN training centres catalogue and network has been discussed previously in 2020 but certainly will become one of the most important topics for discussion with EU representatives in 2021.
But being a consortium member of the eNOTICE project, the essential contribution to this important topic is by far not the only EU related activity of the JCBRN Defence COE.
As the JCBRN Defence COE has close links to its European sister CoE, namely the EU CBRN Risk Mitigation CoE Initiative (see article in JCBRN Defence COE newsletter 1/2020, page 18), it was planned to support Morocco with a Mobile Training Team (MTT) firstly in May and then in September 2020. This, unfortunately, had to be cancelled due to the pandemic but is still planning on being conducted next year. Meanwhile, the JCBRN Defence COE is considering to offer some Advanced Distance Learning (ADL) solutions to bridge the gap.
But this was not the only engagement of the JCBRN Defence COE in this EU initiative. We were asked to participate in and contribute to a COVID-19 e-learning webinar planned and conducted by the United Arabic Emirates (UAE) where the Centre provided a presentation introducing the JCBRN Defence COE and showing how the Centre might support the 61 countries grouped in 8 regions of the EU CBRN Risk Mitigation CoE Initiative.
As well, as this EU flag-ship project has been managed by DG DEVCO for ten years, it is now with the EU Foreign Policy Instrument (FPI) creating more visibility on a higher political level and closer to the European External Action Service (EEAS).
Further and intensified cooperation with this initiative goes along with increased visibility of the JCBRN Defence COE in the EU – good for us and by adhering to the NATO-EU Joint Declaration by translation of abstract political statements of intent into concrete and practical steps for the benefit of both sides – NATO and the EU!
Another EU CBRN related domain where the JCBRN Defence COE is regularly contributing to and participating in is the EU Community of Users on Secure, Resilient and Safe Societies (CoU). As the Centre’s DDIR not only presented a briefing, but also co-chaired an entire session during the last in-person meeting in 2019. Note that all 2020 in person meetings were cancelled. Instead, the time was used to reconstruct the VTC format to an even more professional platform demonstrated by the EU DG HOME. As a result, web-based events were developed and conducted where the JCBRN Defence COE took part in and could contribute to.
We are now looking forward to having in-person meetings in 2021 as this format allows for directs talk and also side bars discussions. This can facilitate discussions with CBRN related industry and has led, in the past, to the JCBRN Defence COE’s engagement developing the industry visits directive at our Centre.
EU focused events such as the CBRNe Summit Europe and the NCT Europe had to be cancelled as in-person meetings. The CBRNe Summit Europe was originally planned to be conducted in Brno along with strong support from the JCBRN Defence COE by delivering a keynote, presenting briefings and even chairing CBRN Defence relates sessions. In addition, we planned on having a booth for disseminating information about the JCBRN Defence COE to a wider audience. Due to the pandemic this event was postponed two times in 2020, then cancelled for the year and is now planned for late April 2021. How the Centre might be able to support this event in the same scope has to be reviewed as there are a couple of other key-events in the same time frame that must be supported.
This is going to be a big challenge for the upcoming year to schedule all the postponed events from last year in combination with the 2021 forecast events.
Also, the NCT Europe was supported by the Centre in 2019 in Vienna / AUT by delivering a keynote, having a booth and chairing some sessions. In 2020 these events were cancelled as in-person meetings but was conducted as web-based virtual events by using very sophisticated and state-of-the-art software. The JCBRN Defence COE presented a keynote, a briefing and also had a very fancy virtual booth. The 2021 NCT Europe is planned in June, in parallel to some other important events in NATO’s CBRN Defence event schedule. We will see how and to what extent we might be able to support. I am sure, as we are a Centre of Excellence, we certainly will find a solution.
To sum up the Centre’s interaction with the EU and EU related topics, I do believe that it is more than worthwhile to inform about the activities of our second Internship coming from The Hague University of Applied Sciences.
Sarah Bijl is working on a deliverable with the overall theme of NATO-EU cooperation in the domain of CBRN Defence. Looking at this topic from different angles and continuing the work from our first internship, Jasper Krause, who also developed for NATO HQ (IS and IMS) a well-received document looking at ‘Cross-border cooperation in case of CBRN incidents’. Sarah’s document – once it is ready in March of this year - will certainly serve as valuable source document in this specific area. This work of Jasper Krause was, and Sarah’s work certainly will be, capstone documents for the JCBRN Defence COE’s Advisors - respectively Annual Conference.
From all aspects - the University, the Centre, and the student – this could be seen as a fruitful and beneficial interaction. We might think about this cooperation on an ongoing but flexible basis in the future and considering the best way to translate this idea into the right and proper format.
This article - describing the Centre’s interaction and activities with the EU - is coming to an end now I would like to stress again that NATO remains the Centre’s first customer. As the interaction with the EU has been controversial in the past, currently the ACT’s champion flag officer has stated during the last VTC that the JCBRN Defence COE is the benchmark of NATO-EU cooperation within NATO and serves as good example for others to follow.
That proves that the JCBRN Defence COE have been and still is on the right path!
Author/Photos: Colonel Wolfgang Karl-Heinz Reich, Deputy Director, JCBRN Defence COE, DEU-A