COVID-19: Interview with Sven Koopmans on disinformation and the role of parliamentarians in the time of pandemics

30 June 2020

Sven Koopmans, Head of the Netherlands’ Delegation to the NATO PA, discusses the Netherlands’ contribution to NATO’s newest member, North Macedonia, shares his perspective on how the global pandemic has increased the spread of fake news and disinformation, and stresses the importance of interparliamentary diplomacy in a time of pandemic.

4 questions with Sven Koopmans:

I.    Allied efforts to provide resources and humanitarian assistance to the hardest-hit countries has been critical to help Allies and partners cope with this unprecedented crisis. Could you tell us how the Netherlands has used NATO structures to help others and how the Netherlands has benefitted from other Allies’ help over the course of the crisis?

The Netherlands has contributed medical and financial support to NATO’s newest member, North Macedonia, benefiting from simplified procedures through Rapid Air Mobility, as decided by the North Atlantic Council in April 2020. The Netherlands is particularly grateful for the support it received from Germany that showed its solidarity by taking in Dutch COVID-19 patients on intensive care units in German hospitals, when Dutch hospitals had reached their maximum ICU capacity.

II.    What additional steps should NATO and Allied armed forces take to support the national and international response to the COVID-19 crisis? 

All Allies need to be vigilant regarding the spread of fake news and other forms of information manipulation to foster dissent or suspicion. In addition, the crisis reminds us of the need to prepare also for uncommon types of crises. How would our military and our societies cope with, for instance, a biological attack or an attack using new technological weapons of mass destruction?

III.    The Dutch armed forces are contributing substantially to support the effort to control the COVID-19 crisis. While armed forces have different roles across the Alliance depending on national circumstances, can other Allies learn from the Dutch forces on how the military can contribute to national civilian efforts during health and other civil emergencies? 

While our military performs a very important role, it appears that the same is the case among many other Allies, all with their own particular circumstances, so we would not suggest to be able to provide lessons for others at this time. For a complete overview of the contributions of the Dutch armed forces to the control of COVID-19 please visit https://english.defensie.nl/topics/corona-covid-19

IV.    What role do parliamentarians play in this crisis? And what role can interparliamentary diplomacy, including within the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, play to mitigate this crisis and prepare for the next crisis?

The COVID-19 pandemic is an international crisis. Therefore it is important that parliamentarians use their interparliamentary networks, including within the NATO PA, to exchange information on the development of the pandemic, to exchange best practices and to contribute to an overview of where and when what kind of help is needed. While it is unavoidable and understandable that governments focus on the needs of their own populations first, the pandemic can only really be brought under control by international cooperation. Parliamentarians, as interlocutors between governments and their constituencies, play an important role in creating and maintaining public support for international efforts to combat a crisis of global dimensions.


Sven Koopmans, Head of the Netherlands’ Delegation to the NATO PA