European Union External Action

Speech by High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini at the Future of EU-NATO Cooperation conference

Brussels, 21/11/2016 - 17:49, UNIQUE ID: 161121_11
HR/VP speeches

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Thank you. Thank you Witold [Waszczykowski, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Poland], thank you for  the invitation,

Rose [Gottemoeller, Deputy Secretary General of NATO], Ambassador,

Ian [Lesser, Executive Director of the German Marshall Fund's Transatlantic Centre],

Friends of the German Marshall Fund,


It is for me really a pleasure to be here with you, probably in the most crucial and momentous time in the history of our relationship – between the European Union and NATO. Definitely the most momentous time since the Berlin plus agreement. But back then, in 2002, the European Union was still relatively small, before the great enlargement. And today, cooperation between the European Union and NATO is crucial to the security of our entire continent, and of the Atlantic space, on both sides of the Atlantic.

This is something we all realise today, for sure in the European Union. The EU-NATO Joint Declaration, the Warsaw Declaration, that we just signed in Warsaw in July, would have been unthinkable just a few years ago. It is a true milestone. And I would like to thank Witold, all the Polish authorities for, not only hosting a perfect Summit, but also for having encouraged and accompanied this important step from the very beginning and its implementation in these days. And from here, from the Warsaw Declaration; it only makes sense to move forward, and for sure not backwards.

I know that there are some, both in Europe and in America, who are worried today about the future of NATO and the future of the transatlantic bond. I believe there is one safe pathway, to preserve a healthy relationship, and a strong one, between the two shores of the Atlantic. And the pathway is that we must all accept our responsibilities and we must all invest in cooperation on the international level, multilateralism in what we defined in our Global Strategy a "rules-based world order". This also means, Witold made it very clear, that Europe must also take responsibility for its own security.

We know our part of the world, our region East and South, has become one of the most unstable, and I would say most dangerous, on earth. For many Europeans, security has become a top priority – this is also new in the last years - and rightly so. Threats have multiplied and they have changed in nature. So we cannot simply hide behind our borders: it would not be coherent with our history and with our values of solidarity but it simply would not work. So we must, as Europeans, engage with the world, starting with our region. And we must engage with all our power – the power of a Union of half a billion citizens, unique in the world. Witold mentioned some of the unique combination of instruments that only the European Union has and sometimes I have the impression that our friends, outside of Europe, understand and see our power much more than we do.

So to take responsibility for our citizen’s security, we need first and foremost to understand and realise, as Europeans, what immense potential lies in our hands. Europe can be, and is already, a super-power – I know many are perplexed when I say this – and I say this often - but think of it:  we are the biggest economy in the world – and despite the crisis, a country like Poland shows us that growing fast is still possible in Europe in these days. We are the first global investor, everywhere in the world, we are the first provider of humanitarian aid and development assistance – a very powerful tool in post-crises situations but also in prevention of conflicts everywhere in the world, we are the first trade partner basically everywhere, we have an unparalleled diplomatic network with different diplomatic backgrounds that complement each other perfectly well, with 28 and a European Union diplomatic network that works all over the world,  and yes, if we join our forces – as we are doing and we are deciding to do more and more today - we can be a strong security provider, in our region and beyond that. But to make use of our power, we need to understand, first of all, our power – which is exactly what we have started to do with the Global Strategy and its implementation process.

To me, taking responsibility means that we must be aware of our strength, and at the same time we must be aware of our limits: what we can do best, what we can do better and what we need to do with others. These are the key three tasks ahead of us. And I think last week we really took an historical decision on all three elements of this. This is particularly important in our relationship with NATO, where cooperation goes together with complementarity – I think I do not need to go more in details for that, Witold has done perfectly well this in his remarks and this last months in particular we worked a lot on this. This is exactly the kind of work we are carrying on together, as European Union and NATO.

As you know, our contacts are constant – I can remind ourselves that Jens and myself started our mandate basically together, you started just I think a month or so before me – actually the first day I was in office we had a meeting and he was the first one to receive the Global Strategy from my hands when it was adopted in June. 

And Jens took part once again in our EU Foreign Affairs Council just last week. And I am particularly glad to be here today with someone I have known and worked with for quite a few years already – Rose, let me publicly congratulate you on becoming, not only on becoming the first woman Deputy Secretary General of NATO but also on being the perfect one in these very complicated times. It is very great to have you here, in Brussels, because indeed we share the same city; with Witold we were saying, we are geographically so close, we are trying to make also the politically so close work.

I must say that our personal ties between the European Union and the NATO leadership make cooperation and mutual understanding extremely easy. It would not be enough but once we have the political determination for increasing our cooperation, it makes things easier – the fact that we know each other, the fact that we work with each other, together, closely on a weekly basis.

The premise of our work is understanding what NATO does best, what the European Union does best, and what we can do better when we work together.

So let us be clear. Witold has mentioned already a couple of things I would not need to repeat but I want to stress at least some of them. NATO remains the cornerstone of European defence, just like it has been for almost seventy years now. We do not want to create another defence alliance – it would not make simply any sense. This is a task for NATO. But there are many challenges that do not fall – and will not fall - under NATO’s mandate, and need to be tackled as a matter of urgency.

And this is where the European Union needs to strengthen itself. This is where we need to raise our “level of ambition”.

As Witold mentioned, first, we need to protect our Union through our external action, because tackling terrorism or instability outside of our borders is vital to our domestic security. We have understood this, I think, very clearly I think in recent years. There is no security inside the European Union if there is no security in our region.

Second, we need to respond to crises in our neighbourhood, because they affect directly the security of our citizens.

Third, we need to strengthen the capacities of our neighbours and partners, because security in our age can only be a collective effort.

As you know, on Monday the European Foreign and Defence Ministers have agreed on this new level of ambition for the European Union, based on the Implementation Plan of the Global Strategy I presented to them. We have clearly spelled out the European Union’s specific and autonomous responsibility on security and defence.

And one day later, with Jens on Tuesday, we met again with Defence Ministers of the European Union to discuss our cooperation with NATO, exactly as we discussed with the NATO Defence Ministers – most of them are the same - a few weeks before at the NATO headquarters, always in Brussels. Because this process is run exactly side by side: we want a stronger Europe, and stronger cooperation with NATO, the two things go absolutely together. The Warsaw Declaration identifies seven areas where it is crucial that the European Union and NATO work together, from countering hybrid threats to strengthening our defence industry. And Jens and I have proposed concrete actions – forty of them - to implement the Warsaw Declaration. I am sure you do not want to hear the full list, also because we have not finalised the process yet formally so it would not be wise and correct from our side, but let me just mention a few examples.

We have proposed to implement parallel and coordinated exercises, something that is becoming increasingly important. Our Operation Sophia in the Mediterranean has been joined by NATO Operation Sea Guardian that provides us some support in key areas we identified together. This is not the first time that our operations work side by side – again Witold was mentioning the excellent work we have done in the Balkans or, I can add, of the Horn of Africa. But I am sure that cooperation between our missions and operations will become more and more crucial, and we will be investing very strongly in it.

For instance, we will improve our collaboration to strengthen our partners’ capabilities, from the Balkans to our Eastern and Southern neighbourhoods.

Our cooperation on the ground will also include stronger exchanges to integrate cyber defence into the planning and conduct of our respective operations.

On hybrid threats, we propose to enhance, by May next year, the timely sharing of critical information, in particular between our new EU Hybrid Fusion Cell and the relevant NATO counterpart.

On strategic communication, we will undertake shared analysis of misinformation, because we know very well that the European Union and NATO are often targeted together. So it could be useful to analyse and respond in a coordinated manner, not necessarily together but in a coordinated manner for sure.

Last but not least at all, the NATO Defence Planning Process and the EU Capability Development Plan need to move on in parallel, and our dialogue on defence industry will need to be strengthened further. On this issue, let me stress that the implementation of the Warsaw Declaration is moving forward, together, in parallel, hand in hand, not only with our plan on Security and Defence for the European Union, but also with the European Defence Action Plan, that will be presented by Commissioner Bieńkowska [Commissioner for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs] at the end of this month. This is an area where the European Union - the area of the industrial basis but also technology and research - where the European Union can help its Member States to do better also on this key issue which would be beneficial also for NATO because at the end of the day we have overlapping Member States and every Member State, I know that well for having been a Minister myself, has one budget, one set of forces. So that will be key also for NATO. Here the European Union can help and will help, provided Member States will be fully on board. 

For each area of the Warsaw Declaration, our common progress will be constantly reviewed through a new mechanism we will put in place: our two Councils will receive annual progress reports, and will decide on further directions of cooperation.  

So as you can see, we have an ambitious agenda to present to our respective Councils in just two weeks, on the 6th of December. So I believe it is not exaggerated to describe this, as a true turning point in our relationship and also for the European defence. It is somehow what I call a winter package on defence and security for the European Union: the implementation plan on Security and Defence, the implementation of the Joint Declaration we signed in Warsaw and the Commission European Defence Action Plan on industry. 

So for the first time ever, we have a joint EU-NATO agenda and we are implementing it. It never happened before. And on the European side, for the first time ever we are moving towards a real European unity of security and defence. Jens has repeated time and again, that a stronger Europe makes NATO stronger. And on my side, on our side, on the European Union's side, we can only add that a strong, united, reliable NATO is crucial to our common security, not only the European security but the transatlantic security. So we follow independent paths, but we run side by side, and we play on the same side. We are different in nature but we share the same objectives, we have the same values.

If I can borrow the words that a colleague mentioned on Tuesday, in the presence of Jens during the Council, quoting the U2 [the band] : "We are one but we are not the same, we need to carry each other". I think that this is exactly what we are trying to do more and better in these months.

We play on the same side. We play on the side of a more secure transatlantic space, we play on the side of a more secure Europe, the entire continent, in solidarity and in a more secure region. This is what our citizens need on both side of the Atlantic, because across the Atlantic our security is interconnected, this is something we understood over the last century also and I think that nobody has an interest to put this in doubt. And this is what our citizens constantly ask. So we have a duty to provide real answers, concrete answers, and we can only do it together – together across the Atlantic with our Allies, and together as Europeans, with a true, strong and united European Union. Thank you very much.

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