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Thank you very much. It is really a pleasure for me be back in Finland in the invitation of Mr President [of Finland, Sauli Niinistö]. It is always a pleasure to first of all engage in conversations with him personally, and to work with the Finnish government on what will be the main topic of our conversations this afternoon here which is the very strong, important work we are doing to strengthen the European Union security and defence pillar - a work that is moving fast, concretely with so many decisions that are taking shape in these days.
It is excellent for me to be here and having the possibility to discuss also the way forward with Mr President. His support to this process has been consistent, credible one since years and now finally we see some of these ideas coming to reality and this is also thanks to your determination, your support and the excellent support that Finland has given to the European Union's security and defence work.
It is also a pleasure for me to be here together with the Deputy Secretary General of NATO Rose [Gottemoeller]. Together with her and Jens Stoltenberg [Secretary General of NATO] we have done remarkable work to move forward also in EU-NATO cooperation that has never been as good as now, and also with my good friend [Minister of Foreign Affairs of Norway,] Børge Brende with whom we work in a truly European way in all foreign and security issues. So for me it is really a pleasure to be here, to be back here.
Q. You said that the cooperation as to defence and security with NATO and EU is really nicely smoothly going. It seems that Mr [Donald] Trump is pulling out from Europe. Who would defend Finland if Russia comes over the border?
We had the official visit of President Trump to the European Union a couple of weeks ago; and I was impressed by the fact that Vice-President [Mike] Pence visited the EU institutions officially within the first months. I guess this is unprecedented for a US administration. This is to say that the commitment we are seeing of the US administration officially towards the European Union is strong. I would not comment on the US commitment to NATO, I would leave it to my friend Rose [Gottemoeller].
But what we are doing to strengthen the EU defence capacity has nothing to do with the US administration. It is a process we started actually with the Lisbon Treaty years ago, it is a process we re-launched exactly one year ago when I presented the Global Strategy for the European Union's Foreign and Security Policy that indicated clearly well before the elections in the United States - also before the results of the referendum in the UK - that the Europeans need the European Union to do more on defence and security because we have the means to do that and our citizens need it. I will talk about that with the President [of Finland, Sauli Niinistö] and my friends in a minute at the Conference: we are taking steps in this last couple of weeks that are completely unprecedented and that will make the European Union security and defence credibility and capacity really strong.
I would say, I often repeat it: we are doing more on European Union defence in this last year than in the 10 or 15 years before and we are doing that for ourselves, not for external factors.
Q. Euroscepticism is raising and it is already really high in Europe. What makes you think that citizens in Europe and really the citizens, not the leaders, want more EU on the security and defence matters?
First of all, there is a certain anti-system feeling across Europe, not only in Europe, we see it across the United States, in other parts of the world as well. This is the way in which I read what you called euroscepticism. If you look at all the latest results at elections in Europe, they do not show at all an anti-European Union feeling or movement but they show an anti-system feeling around our public opinions. I think it is absolutely necessary and urgent for the institutions – be it local, regional, national, continental, global - to analyse this feeling. Because my sense is that our citizens are feeling that the institutions are not working for them and if you look at the approval rate of local or national or European institutions, sometimes you find out that the Europeans institutions have better scores that the national or local ones. So, I guess this is a sense of how do institutions represent and respond to their citizens' needs. It is a much more deeper and probably much more difficult question to answer.
Having said that, if you take the polls, all over Europe, in all the European Union, there is one field where it is absolutely uncontroversial that the European citizens want more European integration and cooperation: in the field of defence, security and foreign policy across the continent, North/South, East/West, across the political spectrum. European citizens indicate clearly – I think around 80% but I would need to check the exact numbers – that they want more Europe on defence, security and foreign policy. Why? Because our citizens understand very well that in the world of today size matters and as European Union we have the power, the capacity, the impact to face the security challenges we have in front of us, be it regional security challenges or global ones. So, it is an immediate, spontaneous demand for the European Union to be more active on the global scene and this is exactly the reason why we are doing all this work on European Union security and defence.
If you want, I can share with you the numbers of the Eurobarometer of the last year, consistently in all countries, this is the big request and I think it is not by chance that our friends in the United Kingdom are showing interest in having or building a future partnership exactly on foreign and security issues in a future relationship that we will have to discuss in the future exactly on these issues. Because together, we are stronger.
Q. When you are building the European defence and foreign policy together so wonderfully, it is a fact that there are countries that are in NATO and there are non-NATO countries. If there is a real military conflict, somewhere in the European Union or somewhere else it is a fact that these non NATO countries have less defence and less security as the NATO countries. How are we going to solve this two class society in the European Union?
It is not for the European Union to define the defence policy or doctrine and, in some cases, even the constitutional provisions of Member States. This is clearly spelled in the treaties. It is a national, sovereign choice. It is the right and the duty of the institutions of the each and every Member State to define their own defence doctrine, their own defence policy and the military alliances they want to be part of. The majority of Member States in Europe are part of NATO, are NATO allies, some are not and it is definitely not up to me or to the European Union to argue in favor or against this. This is a national debate and a national choice.
What I can say and what I can do and what we are doing together is to say whatever you are, NATO ally or not NATO ally, there is a European way, a European Union way to strengthen your capabilities in security and defence. This is what the European Union can do; and we will discuss this in a moment with the President and other friends. This is about supporting through the EU resources for instance, the development of capabilities, this is about having a joint European Union presence in some of the crisis areas as we are already doing. The European Union has fifteen military and civilian operations around the world tackling some of the crises and conflicts that seem far away, like in the Sahel or of the Horn of Africa or in the Mediterranean but then they have a direct impact in our own security, maybe a couple of weeks or months afterwards.
So I cannot define what is the security and defence umbrella that every single Member State define for itself. This has to do with geography, history and politics, but what we can do is to offer the European Union support to the national Member States security and defence capacity and this is finally what we are doing.