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Brussels, 5 December 2017
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Thank you very much Jens [Stoltenberg, Secretary-General of NATO].
I feel quite at home by now. I remember that roughly one year ago we were standing on the same stage and presenting this ambitious plan to bring EU and NATO cooperation to a level that our two organisations have never experienced before.
And everybody was a bit sceptical, because this was probably the intention many times but it was never really reached as an objective.
I am proud – I have to say – that thanks to the hard and dedicated work of our teams, your personal leadership and dedication to that, and the strong political will of our Member States and Allies, we managed to implement a large number of those 42 measures we decided to put in place last year.
Today – together - we presented our second progress report on the 42 measures we decided last year to implement together.
You mentioned the key elements of them, not exclusively, but probably the most important and visible, the common work we have done to establish the Helsinki European Centre of Excellence for Countering Hybrid Threats that we inaugurated together, the coordination and cooperation at tactical and operational level between [EUNAVFOR Med] Operation Sophia in the Mediterranean Sea and Operation Sea Guardian of NATO and the first ever parallel and coordinated exercise we had between the European Union and NATO.
These are only 3 flagships examples of how we put things in place in this year of hard work.
But I have to say that not only have we together presented the second Progress Report of our common action, but we also proposed to both our Councils – EU Council and NATO Council – the new set of proposals for further steps of practical cooperation in a process that is indeed parallel. Today, both Councils endorsed this new set of proposals of 34 new actions that will deepen our cooperation in the areas we already defined in Warsaw declaration last year – meaning countering hybrid threats, operational cooperation, cyber defence, defence capabilities, defence industries, exercises, capacity-building of partners and also strengthening the dialogue at all levels between the EU and NATO.
We also decided to add to this already established priorities or fields of common actions the new fields of action for the further priorities we have agreed upon and that you just mentioned are key priorities for the European Union as well as for NATO: counterterrorism, military mobility – which is a field where the European Union has tools that can help overcoming obstacles that NATO has been facing in the past - and women, peace and security that is a key element for building security in the world and we see it on a daily basis.
I was particularly proud and glad to have this opportunity once again to not only discuss with the NATO Allies' Ministers but also to update them and you, Jens [Stoltenberg, Secretary-General of NATO], on the progress that the European Union work on defence and security is achieving. You know it is quite historic times for EU defence and security, we are establishing the Permanent Structured Cooperation – 23 Member States signed the notification of their participation, they handed it over to me a couple of weeks ago. Jens [Stoltenberg] was there, with us, the same day. A formal decision to launch the Permanent Structured Cooperation, is expected – I expect it – to be adopted on Monday next week at the Foreign Affairs Council I will chair.
But work is still ongoing, so I cannot prejudge the results of the work Member States are doing, but I will expect that this can be finalised on Monday, together also with a decision on projects that would go together with the formal decision of launching the Permanent Structured Cooperation.
As Jens [Stoltenberg, Secretary- General of NATO] said and as Jens has always believed - and I would like to thank you for the support - a strengthened European Union in the field of defence and security will also strengthen NATO. Because it is about reducing fragmentation on the European Union side, making better use of economies of scale and increasing efficiency of output of European defence. It is also in NATO's interest that this process has gotten to such a level of unprecedented and historic development.
As Jens [Stoltenberg, Secretary- General of NATO] mentioned, this is not the only part of the Defence Package the European Union has been putting in place in this last year – we also have the European Defence Fund that will support research and capability projects of Member States in a cooperative manner. This, again, will be beneficial also to NATO, because Member States of the European Union have one set of forces that can be used also for NATO or UN operations and obviously for those that are Allies in NATO. And also we have launched a Coordinated Annual Review on Defence (CARD) that helps us coordinating the budget in this field.
To conclude, I am extremely proud and satisfied, because we managed today – one year after we basically launched this process – at the same time, to put in place the European Union of Security and Defence, fulfilling the full potential of the Lisbon Treaty that was never really implemented in this field, and at the same time, strengthening the EU-NATO cooperation to a level that was never experienced before, showing that the two things are not only possible, but complementary in real terms.
And this is thanks to the excellent cooperation we have established. And I would like to stress once again the very competent, dedicated work that both our staffs have been doing. This is also the solid basis for the continuation of the norm of having EU-NATO cooperation working on a daily basis on many different fields.
Thank you, Jens.
Q. Did you hear what you wanted to hear today from Mr Tillerson [US Secretary of State] on the Iran Nuclear Deal. Did you take his comments on fully enforcing the deal as a sign that the US will stand by it.
My answer is very short. Yes. Then we will see the follow-up.
Q. What did you make of the German Foreign Minister's comments coming into this meeting, saying that US leadership is crumbling, that the US seems to see Europe as a competitor rather than a partner sometimes and is pursuing policies that are hurtingrather than helping.
On the European Union side, obviously, we are in a different position, because we are a political union of 28 democracies and we have with the United States not a relationship of reliance but of partnership and friendship. And this is a common basis that unites us not only for our history, but also for the future perspectives of trying to handle together some of the challenges the world is facing and trying to get some of the opportunities the world is offering. And this is still the solid basis of the transatlantic friendship and partnership between the European Union and the Unites States.
I particularly appreciated the fact that today Secretary [of State of the United States] Tillerson - before coming here - spent three hours first in a bilateral meeting with me, and then with all the 28 foreign ministers of the Member States of the European Union, paying an official visit to the European Union institutions as President [of the United States, Donald] Trump and Vice-President President [of the United States, Mike] Pence already did earlier this year. And this is clearly a sign of recognition of our partnership, not only in the framework of NATO as a military alliance but of the US-EU partnership as such.
We had an excellent meeting today. There are many issues on which we work together and if we were not working together, the security situation in large parts of the world would be much worse than the one we are facing today. If you think of the DPRK [Democratic People's Republic of Korea], if you think of Afghanistan and if you think of Syria. I could continue with Libya, some crises in Africa and continue the long list with counter-terrorism, anti-Da'esh, Ukraine. Again, the list is long.
There are many files on which our cooperation is vital and is achieving results. There are other areas in which the Unites States and the European Union have different positions in foreign policy and we are very open and frank about that – very candid. And today also around the table on the other side of Brussels, in the EU institutions, we had very frank discussions about this. As friends do – recognising the different arguments, recognising the different positions is what allows us to understand each other's positions - to respect them - but also trying to avoid mistakes or trying to find a way to cooperate, even when positions are different.
I do not think you want a list of issues on which our positions are different - you know them. One was the nuclear deal with Iran [JCPOA], where the European Union and its Member States made very clear that for us it is a strategic priority that matters to our security. A nuclear deal that is working - and that has been certified 9 times by the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] as working - needs to be preserved, not only because we are facing another proliferation crisis further East, but also for the overall credibility of international negotiations and agreements. And the message was heard, I think, loud and clear in Washington. I think that today we are in a better place when it comes to the commitment to stay compliant to the agreement and to work together to keep Iran compliant to the agreement, which is our major common work to be done.
We have a difference of views when it comes to multilateralism and in particular the UN system. We are, as the European Union, the strongest supporters of the UN system and a rules-based global order that includes the investment in UN peace-keeping – something we share by the way with another transatlantic partner that is also very much a friend, Canada – but also, for us, this includes a trade. The upcoming WTO ministerial next week in Argentina will also be a test for the way in which we see international relations.
This was evident on the climate change agreement, and I was personally sad – and this was also shared today by other European Union Member States Ministers – that the United States decided to leave the Global Compact of the United Nations on Migration and Refugees. We believe, and we invest in multilateral mechanisms and systems, and we wish to do this more and more with the United States. This the way we take to foreign policy and security policy as well.
There is another issue we mentioned briefly today, even with the press, of difference of views – maybe, let's see. We, in Europe, believe that the only perspective for peace and security, for Israel and Palestine, is the two state solution, not out of idealism, but out of experience. We believe this is the only realistic option for both and for the region. And we are in good company in believing that, and namely the Arab Peace Initiative that – we still believe – is a useful framework for finding a solution to the crisis, to the conflict, as we believe that any move that could derail the possibility of relaunching talks, for instance moves around Jerusalem, would be detrimental in immediate terms and in the perspective of reopening the diplomatic process in the Middle East. So, we have differences, but we have more things on which we work in a cooperative manner, and even on the points on which we have differences. We put as a priority the candid, open, frank conversation – not frank and constructive as journalists mean it, but as we mean it, we human beings mean it, meaning positive, and looking for common ground and common actions to be taken – very respectful and always in a sense of friendship.
Q. 23 of 28 European Union Member States have recently signed an agreement about joint military investment. Did you discuss about that today? And does that represent an alternative to NATO in Europe?
You mean the military command? No, not at all, that was one of the big taboos. It simply the fact that the European Union has already ongoing military and civilian missions and operations, 16 of them. Only in Africa we have more than 10.000 men and women serving under EU flag. And it only makes sense from a military point of view – by the way also from a civilian point of view – to have one command structure, and, here in NATO, this is perfectly understood. It is a matter of making the most out of the already existing missions and operations we have. It is a matter of making them work better, with a streamlined chain of command. And this is not at all, and will never be, a way of creating a SHAPE [NATO's Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers]-kind of structure. It is crystal clear that we are not looking at duplications. We are not looking at ways to turn the European Union into a military alliance. But we are looking at making the most out of the instruments we have, including some of our defence instruments. But there is no competition, only complementarity, and no ambition to turn the European Union into a military alliance. We stay a political union with some defence instruments that we are trying to use at their best.