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Coronavirus strikes at the heart of European defense (v2)

(B2) An official from the European Defense Agency has been detected positive for Coronavirus. Some colleagues have been quarantined. Precautionary measures triggered

Minimum space instructions of one meter poorly respected at the informal council of Defense Ministers (source: EBS – selection B2)

A member of the Defense Agency detected positive

This member of staff had recently traveled to Italy (Milan and Cortina) and returned to Brussels on February 23, the European Defense Agency was informed.. “The first symptoms appeared on Saturday evening (February 29). Very mild symptoms. He tested positive." confirms a press release published on Wednesday (March 4). " He has not returned to the Agency since and is currently at home in isolation since the outbreak ».

Precautionary measures at the Agency

Protective measures have been taken. 1° The people in contact with the affected personnel have been asked “ to self-isolate for 14 days as a precaution ". 2° All meetings to be held in the premises of the EDA have been canceled until March 13, 2020 inclusive, as well as those organized by the Agency outside its premises. 3. No staff will attend external meetings before this date. 4° The office and meeting facilities of the staff member concerned have been disinfected.

Clear instructions given

In the meantime, we learned that a EU Council official was also detected positive. He had been in contact with the EDA agent (1). Instructions have been given to all European agents and civil servants: no physical contact, not even a simple handshake, minimum distance of one meter from all interlocutors, avoid any unnecessary meetings. We are touching the depths of the European system, paradise for Reunionites.

Will the Covid19 spread like wildfire

If the instructions seem to have been little respected at the level of the civil service, the same is apparently not true of the Defense Ministers meeting from Wednesday evening in Zagreb. Proximity was the rule – it is true that this is somewhat the principle of these informal meetings – between EU ministers, senior officials and NATO allies, Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.

A blow from Trafalgar for European defense

Comment: Before long, we could therefore have most defense ministries forced to confine themselves. After the rarefaction of the exercises, we would thus witness a victory by knockout for the European defense establishment, which no adversary has ever dreamed of. A little Covid19. And hop ! the forward presence in the East, European defenses reduced to zero 😉

(updated March 5) Several other people suspected at the agency

Two other staff members were tested for COVID-19 as suspects. The result of the test was not yet known during the day on Thursday, according to our information. They isolated themselves at home. And “there is no unfavorable change in their state of health,” a European official told us. The agency was also temporarily closed to limit the spread of the disease. No staff member has returned to the Agency since March 2. According to our information, one or more suspicious cases have also been noted at the European Union headquarters. And NATO's main headquarters in Europe (SHAPE) also announced the detection of a case in a member of staff (and two members of his family), as reported by the Belgian press.

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde)

  1. The European defense agency denied that the officer concerned attended a meeting with 30 officials from other EU institutions.

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).