Buonasera, good evening.
It is a pleasure for me to be here with my friend, Defence Minister [of Romania, Gabriel-Beniamin Leș], for three days of informal meetings of the Ministers, first of Defence and then of Foreign Affairs of the European Union Member States, under the Romanian Presidency. It is a pleasure to start the year under the Romanian Presidency with many important discussions that we will have.
With the Defence Ministers we will start tonight
already with our two main partners – NATO and the UN. The NATO Secretary-General [Jens Stoltenberg] will join us in a few moments as well as the UN Undersecretary-General [for Peace Operations, Jean-Pierre Lacroix]. They will be both together with us at the dinner discussing our common work, in particular in the field of women, peace and security, but more generally we will discuss our very close partnership, our close relationship.
Let me say in particular that I am very grateful to the NATO Secretary-General for his presence here tonight. Our partnership with NATO is key; it has been strengthened over these last years,and the fact that we have managed to strengthen European defence and at the same time strengthen EU- NATO cooperation is really something that makes me proud and I want to thank him [Jens Stoltenberg] for his personal contribution to this work.
with the Defence Ministers we will discuss our work on the European Union defence: the way forward in different fields – from our Permanent Structured Cooperation
(PESCO), the projects, also the financing of our ambitions on security and defence, and our operations.
I would like also to thank our Romanian friends and the Minister [of Defence Gabriel-Beniamin Leș] in particular for a very warm hospitality, for welcoming us in beautiful Bucharest – still lit up by festive lights – and I think this will give the Ministers an excellent atmosphere for good discussions and for making progress under the Romanian Presidency on our work on defence.
Thank you very much.
Is the INF Treaty doomed now?
You know that Europe has benefited from the INF Treaty, even if we are not part of it - none of the Member States are part of it. But Europe has benefited from it enormously in these last decades. We continue to hope that there is a way to maintain it and to fully implement it. And the two things should go hand in hand. We will continue to discuss this also with Secretary-General Stoltenberg, as we have also done during the NATO Ministerial meetings in the last months. Thank you.