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Remarks by High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini at the press conference following the Foreign Affairs Council (defence)

Brussels, 12/11/2019 - 16:44, UNIQUE ID: 191112_11
Remarks

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Thank you.

We just concluded a working lunch with the Deputy Secretary-General of NATO [Mr Mircea Geoană] where we discussed the good EU-NATO cooperation. He debriefed us on the preparation of the leaders’ meeting that NATO is going to have in London in the beginning of December. The common assessment we share is that the EU-NATO cooperation has never before been so positive, so concrete. We have looked at different issues on which we can even improve it further. 

The morning had started with the European Defence Agency Steering Board and then we moved on with the Defence Ministers to discuss mainly two issues. The Ministers have adopted 13 new projects under PESCO - the Permanent Structured Cooperation. This brings the total number of PESCO projects that have been launched to 47, which is a significant number. In the coming months, the focus will be first of all on the implementation, making sure that these projects deliver on their purpose and, obviously, also on looking at how to move forward in the coming years. But this, again, will be an issue for the Council in the coming month and years. 

Ministers also discussed our [Common Security and Defence Policy] missions and operations. We have 16 of them currently ongoing under the EU flag with more than 5,000 men and women in uniform serving the European Union missions and operations. I made a call upon Member States to make sure that these missions and operations have the adequate resources capability-wise - both human and financial resources - to fulfil their mandate that was agreed by the Member States and the Ministers. 

In particular, the focus was put on our Africa missions, in particular in the Sahel. We have decided to increase our presence and improve the level of support we are giving to our Sahel partners. This is an investment in the European Union’s security, both in terms of fighting terrorism but also organised crime. We also discussed the need to improve and increase our presence and our work in the Horn of Africa, both in Somalia and also off the Horn of Africa coast with a very successful maritime operation we have had in place since years now – [EUNAVFOR] Atalanta – that has been focusing on anti-piracy – and successfully so  -, but that might now need to refocus on other maritime security challenges. But that is up for discussion among the Ministers in the months to come as they will be discussing the review of the Operation itself. 

I will stop here and leave more space to your questions. 

Link to the video: https://audiovisual.ec.europa.eu/en/video/I-180098

Q: Vous nous dites qu’il y a une collaboration excellente entre l’Union Européenne et l’OTAN, pourtant le diagnostic à propos de l’OTAN est un peu différent du côté d’un Président d’un grand pays de l’Union est-ce que l’état de mort cérébrale de l’OTAN qu’il annonce a été discutée entre vous ? Quel est votre avis sur ce diagnostic ? Plus généralement, on appelle à ce que les Européens se mobilisent davantage, est-ce que ça a été évoqué ce midi entre vous ?

Vous faites référence à un pays qui est un Etat Membre de l’Union Européenne mais également un allié de l’OTAN donc je dirai que c’est une discussion qui va avoir lieu au sein de l’OTAN et pas au sein de l’Union Européenne. Je me limite à noter que les relations et la coopération du partenariat entre l’Union Européenne et l’OTAN n’a jamais été si fort qu’aujourd’hui et que cela nous aide réciproquement, des deux côtés de la ville de Bruxelles. Nous partageons à 100% le constat qu’une Union Européenne forte sur le côté défense aide l’OTAN à être plus fort et de notre côté de Bruxelles nous voyons un renforcement de l’OTAN comme important pour la sécurité de l’Europe.

Q: Dans la foulée de ce que vous venez de dire et, précédemment sur le sommet de Londres, vous dites que peut être cette coopération pourrait être encore renforcée, est-ce que vous pouvez donner quelques éléments et nous dire également si les Européens sont formellement, en tant qu’Union Européenne conviés à ce Leaders Meeting si vous ou le président du conseil européen y serez ?

J’espère en début de Décembre prochain ne plus être en fonction, sauf si vous être en train de me donner une nouvelle mais ça ne sera pas à moi de prévoir une présence ou non à la Réunion des Leaders de l’OTAN à Londres. Normalement quand il s’agit de Sommets, l’Union Européenne est toujours invitée, le dernier étant à Varsovie dans un moment clef de notre coopération parce que nous avons signé à ce moment-là la déclaration conjointe, qui a jeté les bases de notre coopération renforcée. Ce n’est pas à moi de vous expliquer les invitations que prépare l’OTAN mais surement du point de vue des invitations réciproques, il est normal que nous participions à nos sommets réciproques, cela est presque automatique. It is normal to attend each others’ meetings, it is almost an automatic state of play. Donc le prochain leadership de l’Union Européenne va voir mais je peux dire qu’il y a un futur pour le développement des relations et de partenariat entre le de l’Union Européenne et l’OTAN. 

Nous avons à présent plusieurs projets communs. Nous avons aussi développé et approfondi notre dialogue politique, à tous niveaux, entre le Secrétaire Général [Mr Jens Stoltenberg] et moi-même, bien sûr aussi avec le Vice-Secrétaire Général [Mr Mircea Geoană] mais aussi au niveau d’ambassadeurs le COPS, le NAC [North Atlantic Council] s’est organisé maintenant régulièrement. Nous avons maintenant régulièrement des échanges d’information, d’opinions, de débriefing sur beaucoup de thèmes qui sont à l’agenda soit de l’Union Européenne soit de l’OTAN et ça nous permet aussi d’approfondir des thèmes qui sont d’intérêt commun. Nous avons aussi une pratique d’exercice commun qui est très important, on a beaucoup élaboré là-dessus pendant le déjeuner, PACE [Parallel And Coordinated Exercise] ce qui évoque un concept de paix, en italien et en latin, c’est pour cela que le Secrétaire Général Adjoint [Mr Mircea Geoană] a décidé de le nommer comme cela. Il y a une pratique d’échange d’information pratique et de travail commun régulier. Cela pose les bases pour une coopération plus étroite En particulier sur le domaine du travail que nous faisons avec nos partenaires - soit à l’Est soit au Sud -, cela donne une perspective intéressante pour améliorer et approfondir notre coopération. 

Q: Est-ce que vous pourriez plus élaborer l’augmentation des forces et de l’action Européenne au Sahel ? Est-ce que la mission de formation EUTM Mali va revoir sa méthode de formation, est-ce qu’elle va aller dans le centre du Mali ? Et deuxièmement si je peux me permettre - comme c’est peut-être la dernière fois que l’on vous verra - je voulais savoir quelle leçon vous tirez de cette présence pendant cinq ans, est-ce un rôle difficile, n’est-ce pas plus un rôle de parole et de conviction plutôt qu’un rôle d’action ? 

C’est une question difficile. C’est un rôle difficile, mais c’est un rôle possible. Je pense l’avoir déjà dit. Je trouve que le Traité donne à la haute représentante et aux vice-présidents de la commission les outils nécessaires pour faire face aux défis que ce rôle présente. C’est vrai que le monde va dans une direction intéressante, pas nécessairement celle que nous souhaitons voir, mais je dirai que c’est un rôle possible à jouer et nécessaire parce que quand les européens unissent leur voix, leurs ressources - soit dans le domaine de la diplomatie, ou dans le domaine militaire de la sécurité et de la défense ou de la coopération et développement - l’impact de notre action est supérieur à ce que nous imaginons. Donc je trouve que oui c’est un rôle compliqué à jouer mais c’est un rôle fondamental et c’est peut-être le travail le plus beau et le passionnant que j’ai fait dans ma vie. 

Sur la première partie de la question, nous n‘en avons pas discuté en détail. Les ministres n’ont pas pris de décision, sauf sur la partie des projets PESCO. Mais il y a eu une convergence sur le fait que les états membres de l’Union Européenne vont augmenter leurs efforts et leur présence pour soutenir les forces de sécurité mais aussi les efforts du côté politique et diplomatique au Sahel ; en particulier au centre du Mali, que j’ai visité moi-même pendant ma dernière visite, et au Burkina Faso, les pays les plus exposés aux risques sécuritaires à ce jour, et avec une coordination majeure avec les différentes formes de présences que nous avons sur place. 

Q: On PESCO: it was launched just two years ago, but what is your view on the level of ambition behind PESCO? Do you think that in the long run – not now – PESCO is the ground for Europe to become really militarily independent? Meaning that one day we can imagine that Europe if it is in need to do a major military intervention does not need the Americans?

We have a developed a concept of cooperative autonomy - more around the Global Strategy and its implementation rather than on the PESCO projects. It is a concept that is very familiar to many EU Member States. It means that every time we can go together with others we would and we will. But in case of need of going alone as Europeans – never alone unilaterally, but outside of other frameworks, keeping in mind the UN framework that remains our ultimate legitimacy for any intervention and military or defence activities - we would be ready to do that. 

The first choice - the preferred option - would always be to go together with partners, be it NATO, the UN or other regional organisations. I can mention the African Union. Most of our military presence is in Africa. This is because we have a strong partnership with our African partners, starting with the African Union, to help and support their own efforts to build peace and security in their own continent, which is an interest for us Europeans as well. But also, if you take our common work with Asian countries on maritime security, for instance. Every time we can go with partners, we would go with partners. But in case there is not the framework for that, Europeans should be ready - and this is something that European Union Member States agree upon - to take initiatives to support partners in the world. 

For instance, train military forces of our partners around the world and support UN missions and operations as they bridge the time gap that sometimes the UN system forces them to bridge. We should be capable of doing that. This is a contribution in itself to the partnership we have with others like NATO. Again, it is not so much a matter of strategic autonomy, but cooperative autonomy. The first choice is always to go with others. But in case it is not possible for different reasons - political or operational - we should be ready to go alone. 

Q: Did you talk about operation [EUNAVFOR MED] Sophia and are there developments on that? 

Among the [CSDP] missions and operations we discussed with Member States, Operation Sophia was obviously mentioned without any pressure to take a decision in the sense that, as you know, the mandate of the operation has been extended for another six months in late September. The decision will need to come by March next year. Many Member States have referred to some positive developments on discussions on the methodology and the ways in which disembarkation procedures will be handled. That was recorded with a certain satisfaction and a certain hope that this could lead to bringing back vessels to sea for Operation Sophia to be fully operational and fulfil its mandate. 

Personally, you know very well, I have always thought that Operation Sophia without vessels at sea is somehow not fully fulfilling its mandate. I have always thought that a naval operation requires naval presence at sea. I wish that Member States will find an agreement among themselves sooner rather than later to allow our key presence in the Mediterranean Sea to fulfil its mandate. This mandate is focused on two main issues: one is the disruption of the traffickers' networks - the criminal organisations that are trafficking human beings; and, secondly, to implement the arms embargo on Libya. Both mandates are key to the European Union’s security. This is why I really hope that Member States will manage in the coming weeks and months to find an agreement among themselves that would allow our common European Union presence at sea to be restored so that we can regain control of the Mediterranean waters. 

Q: Do you have some comments to make on the European Court of Justice ruling on the labelling of products coming from the Israeli settlements?   

I believe that in the pressroom of the Commission, there was an answer already on this issue. I refer you to that. 

Q: Yesterday you decided a new framework of sanctions on Turkey in regards to the drilling in the Mediterranean Sea. Did you discuss yesterday or today with the Foreign Ministers or the Defence Ministers the military operation of Turkey in the northeast of Syria?  

We did this last month in Luxembourg. That is not connected to the decision we took yesterday to implement the decision that was already taken on the drillings. There is some concern, as you know, and we are satisfied about the fact that the US convened a ministerial meeting of the Coalition Against Da’esh later this week. The European Union Member States will be present at that meeting. Together with the European Union they will coordinate positions on that. We will try to make sure that the Coalition remains effective in fighting Da’esh, because as we see from the news - even the sad news of these last couple of days - the fight against Da’esh is still not won once and for all. We will have to collectively keep a very close eye on how we can avoid that Da’esh re-finds some breathing space, both in Syria and in Iraq. 

Q: On the monitoring of PESCO projects: you have got an impressive list of 47 projects and more will come in the years ahead. What is the failure rate expected to be? Can we be sure that all these projects will become operational? Will we ever know if, say, the proposal for the EU diving school or the intelligence centre never happened? 

What is the failure rate of projects that are being launched? I would say it is a little bit too early to say. Obviously, any project that is launched is monitored. You will definitely have an overview of the implementation phases. Today, a lot of emphasis has been put on implementation and delivery. As of next year, there will be a pause on the adoption of new projects. These 47 projects will be all for now. In two years’ time, participating Member States will come back to possibly new decisions on new projects. But these next two years will be dedicated to work full speed on implementation, because we know that the test will be on delivery and implementation - 47 for now, for next two years. What is expected next is the monitoring of the implementation phase. Some of them are already in the implementation phase. We have insisted a lot today on the fact that the test will be on the level of consistency that Member States will put in implementing their own projects. 

Q: On PESCO budgets: why are no budgetary figures attached to any of the PESCO projects? At least for the older ones? In the new batch, there is some very considerable capability projects in space and maritime that are going to involve quite a heavy budgetary layout. So is the purpose to eventually release those figures? 

When it comes to budgetary implications of PESCO projects, it is for the Member States involved in the PESCO projects to share the figures. PESCO projects are Member States driven. PESCO is a cooperative framework for participating Member States to come together and do projects themselves. So final decisions and final responsibility for that is in their own hands. I don’t see any impediment for them to share budgetary implications - I would be in favour, but it is in Member States' hands. 

Q: On the European Defence Agency: I see in your press release that pending further clarification of the Brexit situation an Amending Budget will be submitted. Is the idea there that if there is Brexit, the budget of the Agency goes down permanently or will the other Member States have to step in and increase their contribution to the agency? 

As there is still a certain level of uncertainty on the perspective of Brexit, this is the way Member States agreed to adjust budget in both ways, depending on political developments in the coming months. I believe this is a rational and pragmatic approach that they have shared. 

Q: There has been talk about letting third countries participate in PESCO. Has this been discussed today and what is the situation? 

When it comes to third countries' participation to PESCO projects, there has been a lot of work done. First of all, I would like to thank the Finnish Presidency for the enormous amount of work they have done in these months to try and reach a consensus on this regulation and these requirements that need to be agreed. We discussed this also with the Ministers today. We are much closer than ever to finding an agreement on the criteria and on the principles for third countries and entities to participate in PESCO projects. The agreement is not there yet. It was not for the Ministers to decide today. Work is going to continue in the coming months. We all expressed our wish for an agreement to be found sooner rather than later. But I and everybody is all very much aware of the fact that this is extremely important for some PESCO projects in particular. 

Let me also say that PESCO is an instrument for a reinforced coordination and cooperation among some of the Member States. So even some of the EU Member States are not part the PESCO projects. The participation of third countries and third parties is exceptional and is exceptional on the basis of the identification of the added value that third country participation can bring to projects that are run by specific Member States. If you take the 28 Member States' circle, the PESCO project is a smaller bubble. So looking at how entities from outside of the EU can come in is an element that is important, but again, it is not the purpose of the PESCO project. The PESCO projects’ purpose is to strengthen cooperation among a smaller number of Member States of the European Union. Cooperation and partnership with others is important - in some cases is extremely important in technical terms, but is not the main purpose of the instrument. The main purpose of the instrument is to incentivise closer cooperation among some of the Member States that are putting together resources and plans to implement some specific projects. PESCO is not the instrument for partnerships. We have other instruments for that.  

Q: On the projects' budget: is there no European Union money involved? Is it just Member States paying for these projects? 

EU funds will be involved. This is obviously part of the Commission's responsibility. As you know, transparency is for us a key principle. So while keeping participating Member States's prerogatives, from our side disclosure is going to be and is already there. 

Link to the video: https://audiovisual.ec.europa.eu/en/video/I-180099