Bratislava, 27 September 2016
Check against delivery!
We will have today an informal but very important meeting of the EU Defence Ministers here in Bratislava.
First of all, we will start discussing and working on the proposals to implement the Defence Action Plan. As you know, I presented the Global Strategy in June. Out of that, I suggested first to the Foreign Ministers then to the Heads of State and Government proposals for its implementation, working more on the European defence. This does not mean a European army; this means more cooperation to have an effective European defence in full complementarity with NATO. And today the Defence Ministers will start working on the concrete ideas to make this a common decision that I hope will be ready for November, so the European Council in December can endorse it.
We will have a session with NATO Secretary General [Jens Stoltenberg] and this really symbolises the fact that we are working together from the very beginning of this process. With him we will discuss the implementation of the EU-NATO Joint Declaration that we signed in Warsaw in July. We are strengthening all fields of our cooperation and this in parallel with our work on European Defence and Security. And then with him as well as with the United Nations we will discuss our operations and missions. As you know we have seventeen of them around the world and we will focus today in particular on our operations in the Mediterranean Sea - Operation Sophia -, our work on Libya when it comes to the Security Sector Reform and Border Management and also the work we are doing in the Sahel.
This is the menu for today. It is a full agenda, it is a very important one and I expect all the ministers to be focused, constructive and to come out from the meetings today with clear indications that can lead our work forward.
Q. What is the role you expect from Great Britain? The Secretary just said he is vetoing anything that is going in the direction of European army.
I said one minute ago that this is not about European army.
Q. But why is he saying that?
I don’t know, I will have the discussion with him now. What I have seen so far from the UK is a very constructive attitude. We’ve always discussed among the 28, the Global Strategy and its implementation. We have done this here in Bratislava with the Foreign Minister and this is the way in which I am starting the work. Then it will be up to the UK to tell us, to tell me, whether they are interested in this process that, I repeat, is not about European army, but is using the instruments we have in full complementary with NATO to strengthen the European capabilities in the field of defence, which is something that our citizens I think expect from us, if we need to work on their security both internally and externally.
Q. Two weeks ago, Chancellor Angela Merkel and President François Hollande said that the way forward was to create a European army.
No. All the things we are discussing – and I know that it can be a little bit confusing - and all the documents I have received among which the French, German and Italian paper and others, but also, I would like to stress this, of all others Member States go in the same direction which is not the creation of a European Army. This is not something that is foreseen by the treaties. It is about using all the space and the instruments we have in the treaties already foreseen. We have some of them we are not using like the Battlegroups; we have some options in the treaties that we have not yet even started to reflect upon like Permanent Structured Cooperation. It is about using what is already in the existing treaties to the benefit of the security of the European citizens and also the benefit of our partners. Because again: be it NATO, be it the United States, be it our partners in Africa, in Asia or in the Mediterranean or in the East of Europe, we all hear from them that Europe needs to do its part on the global security and we have the instruments to do that. So this is what we will be discussing today. It is nothing ideological, nothing hypothetical; something very concrete that we can do.
Link to the video: http://ec.europa.eu/avservices/video/player.cfm?ref=I126691