I’m looking forward to meet the EU Defence Ministers and next month High Representative Federica Mogherini will meet with the foreign ministers of NATO so this is just yet another example of the close cooperation between the EU and NATO.
And today we will discuss how we can further strengthen the cooperation between the EU and NATO. In July I signed a joint declaration with president Tusk and president Juncker and we will today discuss how we implement that declaration in many different areas, for instance like maritime cooperation, like exercises but also on the issue of development of capabilities in NATO and the EU.
A stronger NATO-EU cooperation will also strengthen the European defence and I welcome the decision made yesterday by the defence ministers and foreign ministers of the EU on the implementation of security and defence of the global strategy and my message has been, since I became Secretary General of NATO, that Europe has to do more, Europe has to step up, Europe has to invest more in defence and that is what we see is happening so I welcome that after many years of cuts in defence spending Europe is now increasing defence spending as a response to a more dangerous and more challenging security environment. This has been my message since I became Secretary General and I will continue to convey the strong message of more defence spending in Europe to respond to a more challenging security environment.
Question 1: Julian Barnes, WSJ: Mr. Secretary General, in your op-ed you talked about the relationship between Europe and America being based on shared values. Mr. Trump has talked about a more transactional relationship based on increased spending. Are you worried that Mr. Trump’s election is going to change the basis of the alliance, change the dynamic of the alliance?
Secretary General: President-elect Donald Trump stated during the election campaign that he is a big fan of NATO and I am certain that he will be a President of the United States which will live up to all of the commitments of the United States in the alliance, because a strong NATO is important for Europe but it is also important for the United States. He also pointed out the importance of increased defence spending - but Europeans are stepping up their efforts to invest more in defence - and I absolutely agree with him that has been a message from American leaders, US leaders for many years. And the good thing is that we now see that Europeans are actually investing more in defence, they are investing more in defence in Europe and they are also contributing to a fairer burden-sharing.
Question 2: There was a talk between President-elect Trump and President Putin. Do you think that the time is right to try to normalize relations with Russia?
Secretary General: First of all I think, this is normal thing that President-elect Donald Trump speaks to world leaders, including of course the leader of Russia. And the message from NATO has been that we want dialogue with Russia. Russia is our biggest neighbor, Russia is there to stay and especially when tensions run high, especially when we face many different security challenges, it is important to have dialogue, to have a chance for a political dialogue open with Russia. That is NATO’s message and there is no contradiction between strong defence and political dialogue. We think it is important to respect territorial integrity and sovereignty of all nations, including Ukraine. Therefore we will never respect or accept the violation of the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine and that is the reason why we have responded in a way we have to the Russian aggression against Ukraine.
Question 3: Mr. Secretary General, Russian Foreign Affairs Ministry today’s statement and they say that joint Georgian-NATO exercises are threats for the region. What is your response?
Secretary General: What NATO does is defensive, it is proportionate and it is fully aligned with our national obligations and we will continue to work with our close partner Georgia, and I visited Georgia recently and I welcome very much the development and the strengthened partnership between NATO and Georgia. In general I believe that is important that we stay calm and cool-headed, and that we sit down and find ways to avoid escalating tensions and continue to talk with Russia to address different issues, not least risk reduction transparency related to increased military activity close to our borders and NATO will continue to do so. We are planning to hold a new meeting of the NATO-Russia Council in the near future and that is one way of keeping the channels for political dialogue open with Russia to convene a new meeting of the NATO-Russia Council.
Question 4: Are you not afraid that NATO will come not relevant anymore, the EU is focusing on its own military defence and like the US, we have Donald Trump now, we had Brexit so how will the role of NATO will develop and are you afraid that EU is more concentrating on itself?
Secretary General: In times with uncertainty as we live in now with the turmoil and violence that we see in Iraq and Syria but also a more assertive Russia in the east, NATO is as important as ever and therefore I welcome that we see a strengthening of the cooperation within NATO and we see also that the European allies are stepping up after many years of cuts in defence spending, we now see increased In defence spending across Europe and Canada. So I am absolutely certain that NATO will continue to be the bedrock of our security and I also welcome the decision of the Foreign Ministers of the European Union yesterday to strengthen European defence, because that will be important, both for Europe, the European Union and for our transatlantic bond.