Brussels, 27 October 2016
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Good morning. Let me start by saying that obviously my thoughts today are with my home country, following what is happening in Italy after the earthquake.
But today it is a very important meeting with the NATO Defence Ministers and with the NATO Secretary General [Jens Stoltenberg ]. We meet very often, he was with the EU Defence Ministers just last month in Bratislava for our informal council where we discussed EU-NATO cooperation, as we will do today.
EU-NATO cooperation, especially after the Warsaw Summit, is getting into not only the strategic phase but also the very concrete and practical phase. We are working on the implementation of the Joint Declaration we signed in Warsaw so we will share with the Ministers our joint set of proposals for that, which we will then finalise for our respective councils by December.
I will also brief the Ministers on the EU's reflections and work on the European defence that we are doing as a follow-up in the implementation of the European Union's Global Strategy. Jens Stoltenberg is obviously already informed about this but it is an excellent opportunity to share with all the Ministers - some of them are the same as you can imagine – the work we are doing inside the European Union to strengthen our work on European Union's defence, with the use of the instruments we have in the treaties. And this will reinforce also the work of NATO, because as Jens Stoltenberg said in Bratislava just one month ago with us: a strong European Union in defence is also a stronger NATO.
So in full complementarity, with no overlapping, with no duplication, as we work day by day with a very pragmatic but also ambitious approach, we will continue to work together. Thank you.
Q. On the potential plan and contribution of NATO to Operation Sophia.
We have discussed ways in which NATO can support Operation Sophia in the Mediterranean and we will discuss also this with the Ministers today. We have at the moment talked about information sharing and support in logistics. Let me, by the way, say that just today we are starting the training of the Libyan coastguards in Operation Sophia which is a very important step, but I think that cooperation also in that respect with NATO will be important and we welcome that very much.
Q. Are you happy to extend the Aegean [Sea] mission?
It is not for me to comment on NATO decisions.
Q. How do you do the planning that needs to be done for the security missions and then not conflicting with NATO when it comes to the headquarters?
Let me clarify that immediately. I thought I clarified that several times already but I am happy to do it again and again. First of all, we are not planning an European army and we are not planning to have any headquarters as NATO for instances has SHAPE [Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe]. But I give the news: the European Union is already running operations and missions, civilian and military ones. We already have our planning and command structures and it is work that we are starting now to improve our planning and command structures and this can be done without any kind of overlapping and duplicating with NATO. On the contrary, we believe that improving that effectiveness, and let me say the smoothness, the rationality of our command and planning structures can only improve the effectiveness of our missions and operations which by the way work very well with the ones in NATO. I can think of the Balkans, where we work very well together, Afghanistan and some places where our missions and operations are and NATO is not, but we cooperate with UN missions, in Africa first of all.
So I am absolutely, one hundred per cent, sure that this cooperation will increase and it will become more practical, tangible and this will be for the benefits of our citizens and our security. Because at the end of the day this is the window of opportunity we have - that our citizens and our leaders in Europe understand that security is a priority for us, that we have the instruments, the capacity and also the political will now, I believe, to work seriously on that.
Link to the video: http://ec.europa.eu/avservices/video/player.cfm?ref=I128305