Check against delivery!
It is a pleasure for me to be back at the NATO Defence Ministers' meeting.
First of all, I will start my day here with a meeting with the Deputy Prime Minister/Defence Minister of [the Republic of] North Macedonia [Radmila Šekerinska]. I am looking forward to the formal notification of the new name. The implementation of the Prespa Agreement - and the invitation to be here for the Defence Minister of North Macedonia [Radmila Šekerinska] - is indeed historical step.
It is a process that the European Union has supported all along the way. I think it is remarkable how the leaders and the people of both countries have been working towards this courageous, historic and really encouraging turning point that I believe can inspire not only the Balkans, but all of Europe, showing leadership, determination and achieving an excellent result. I will start with this meeting, which for me is very important and emotional.
Then I will have the opportunity to brief the Defence Ministers of the NATO allies about the work we have done on the European defence in the European Union. These are regular meetings. Just a couple of weeks ago, [Secretary-General of NATO] Jens Stoltenberg joined us for the European Union Defence Ministers meeting.
I will update Ministers on the state of play of all the fields of work - the Permanent Structured Cooperation [PESCO], the projects we have put in place, the work to strengthen the capacity of European Union Member States that are also most of them NATO allies to invest in defence to take also their part of the responsibility. Some call it the burden, I prefer the word responsibility, and in this contributes also to a stronger NATO.
I will stress again something that the Secretary-General of NATO [Jens Stoltenberg] constantly reminds us, that a stronger European Union in the field of defence makes also NATO stronger, as well as we recognise that a strong NATO makes Europe safer. I will be very pleased to see here again with the Ministers of the [NATO] allies how we advance together, both on the strengthening of the European Union defence but also on the EU-NATO cooperation that has been our priority from the very beginning of this journey.
Q. There is a big meeting, a conference on the security in the Middle East, going on in Warsaw to which you were invited. Why did you choose to be here instead of there?
I am always present at the NATO Defence Ministers' and Foreign Ministers' meetings. I think I did not miss one since I started my mandate. It is for me an institutional duty but also a political priority to invest in a strong EU-NATO cooperation. I informed about this clash of dates both the Polish friends, the Foreign Minister [of Poland, Jacek Czaputowicz,] and the Prime Minister [of Poland, Mateusz Morawiecki] with whom I spoke a few days ago, but also [Secretary of State of the United States] Mike Pompeo that I will meet here tomorrow in Brussels. They perfectly understand the fact that for the European Union NATO is important, so it is clear that my place is here today.
Q. You will meet Mike Pompeo tomorrow. What about your different views on Iran? Do you think you would be able to reconcile them eventually?
We have different views on the implementation of the nuclear deal [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action] with Iran but we have views that on other issues coincide. I still believe that we have the same views on Syria and the need for a political solution to the war. I think we have similar views on the missile program of Iran and on the need to move forward for peace in Yemen.
Again, it is not for me to express the US positions; it is clear what the European Union positions are. We see convergence on many of them, some differences on some others that we tackle in a very pragmatic and calm manner. Wherever we have fields of common interest and common action we work together and on other fields where views diverge, the Europeans follow their European priorities.
For us, the implementation of the nuclear deal with Iran [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action] is a matter of European security - to avoid that Iran can develop a nuclear weapon, and we see it is working. For us it is a matter of priority to keep implementing it at full.
On other issues we can work very closely together with the United States.
Q. You announced the Third Brussels Conference on Supporting the future of Syria and the region and you mentioned the issue of Syria. After ISIS was physically ended, will you address today the Defence Ministers about the political issues in Syria and Iraq?
We normally deal with that with the Foreign Ministers. The Ministerial Conference in Brussels will be the third of that kind and Foreign Ministers are invited to join. I have had conversations about that to prepare the Conference both with our partners in the UN, the new UN Special Envoy [for Syria, Geir Pedersen] but also the colleagues working on the humanitarian field and obviously with the Foreign Ministers of the region starting from Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon.
We will have a discussion with the Foreign Ministers of the European Union Member States on Monday to prepare the Syria Conference among other things.
Link to the video: https://ec.europa.eu/avservices/video/player.cfm?ref=I167685