by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and EU High Representative Federica Mogherini before the meeting of NATO Foreign Ministers on cooperation with the European Unionю
It’s really a pleasure to welcome High Representative Federica Mogherini here to the NATO Headquarters.
She became High Representative and I became Secretary General almost at the same time back in the fall of 2014. We met very early after that and we decided that we should do what we could to enhance and to step up NATO-EU cooperation.
So that has been high on our agenda ever since we assumed our offices.
And we made that decision because we believe it’s a lot of added value if the European Union and NATO are able to work even closer together. Because NATO and the European Union, we are unique partners and we share the same values and we share the same challenges.
And we are working closer together than ever before.
We work side-by-side to help cut the lines of illegal trafficking and illegal migration in the Aegean.
We have a closely coordinated stance following Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea. The EU delivered economic sanctions. And NATO delivered the biggest reinforcement of our collective defence since the end of the Cold War.
We also coordinate our support for partners to the east and to the south.
And since February, NATO and the EU have reached two formal arrangements.
One on cyber defence, and the other on our practical cooperation in the Aegean Sea.
So we have concluded more arrangements in the past three months than in the previous thirteen years.
And I think that indicates that we are making progress in the EU-NATO cooperation.
This is an important fresh start. We can, and must do more.
In late June, the European Council will address its new strategic security policy.
Ten days later, the NATO Summit will begin in Warsaw.
We must seize this opportunity. Today, we will address how we can do that.
First, I foresee a joint statement on NATO-EU relations.
It will identify key areas for expanding our cooperation.
Including fighting hybrid and cyber threats, supporting our partners in defence capacity building, and increasing maritime security.
Second, we are developing new Playbooks to enable our organisations to closely coordinate when facing hybrid threats.
On key issues such as information sharing, civil preparedness, cyber, and strategic communications.
And third, we need to step up our readiness by exercising more together.
We need more EU involvement in NATO exercises, and more NATO involvement in EU exercises.
Today we will also be joined by Sweden and Finland, members of the EU and two of NATO’s closest partners.
This illustrates both, the importance of NATO and EU cooperation and the vital role of Sweden and Finland on issues of common concern, such as hybrid threats and the security situation in the Baltic Sea.
NATO and the EU share twenty-two members, and more than four hundred and fifty million citizens.
We need to take our cooperation to a higher level and that’s exactly what we are working on now.
So, once again, welcome Federica, it’s good to have you back.
HIGH REPRESENTATIVE FEDERICA MOGHERINI: Thank you very much, Jens. It’s a pleasure to be back. Indeed, you highlighted in perfect way how in this one year and a half of our parallel mandate we have really energized and intensified cooperation between the European Union and NATO, as it was our intention to do.
And indeed, the preparation for the Warsaw Summit in July and the European Council taking place in a few days before that, will create an excellent synergy for highlighting the fields where working together brings an added value.
You mentioned many of them, and also the very concrete things on which we are working or which we have been working. Also, and let me thank you for that, thanks to your constant presence to our Defence Ministers’ meetings of the European Union and the constant invitation you extend to me to attend the Ministerial meetings here at NATO, both Foreign Ministers and Defence Ministers.
You mentioned very concrete and clear things we’re doing on hybrid, on cyber. There are other three elements where our cooperation is excellent and brings a real added value. The first one is maritime security. We’re working very well together in the Aegean. We are obviously also looking at ways in which we can work together and NATO can support the activities of the European Union, in particular Operation Sophia in the Central Mediterranean, to dismantle the traffickers’ business. But also maritime security at large in other parts of the world.
There are theatres in which we are both present: Balkans, for sure, where our cooperation is key to the stability of countries that are extremely important for both NATO and the European Union. And others, that are a little bit more far away, like Afghanistan, where again, the Warsaw Summit would provide an excellent complement from a European points of view. So the Brussels Conference that we’ll organise on Afghanistan and with Afghanistan on the civilian part, so the political and the pledging support to the country in early October. This is the perfect example of how our two organisations that are different but complementary somehow can work together, bringing an added value in terms of security and stability in the world.
Let me add one last point. I am personally very glad that Montenegro signed accession protocol. This is something that I believe highlights very well the complementarity again of our work. And I stop here, because our statements were somehow complementary; I do not have to mention things you mentioned already.
QUESTION (Wall Street Journal): Secretary General, I wonder if you could talk about whether the cooperation on hybrid threat and other matters of the EU can lead to sort of meaningful intelligence sharing, or if there are too many political hurdles. And the High Representative, I wonder if you could tell a little bit more specifically, what kind of support you would like NATO to give the EU in the Central Mediterranean to Operation Sophia and your other efforts.
SECRETARY GENERAL: I think that what we see related to hybrid, is that we are faced with threats where we see a combination of civilian and military means. And we see overt and covert means of aggression. Therefore, it is an obvious need for enhanced coordination between the European Union and NATO. We speak about cyber. We speak about infrastructure. We speak about energy supplies. We speak about the importance of strategic communications. And in all these areas, there are capabilities and assets in the European Union and there are capabilities and assets in NATO.
And since we are, to a large extent, representing the same countries, we have to coordinate our efforts in defending those countries against hybrid threats.
One element of this is of course related to sharing information. I think that we should have an approach which enhances the sharing of information, taking into account sensitivities and integrity of the different organisations.
And I think we have been able to do exactly that, when we now have an arrangement on cyber, a practical arrangement, where we have found a pragmatic way to enhance our cooperation on cyber. We have agreed how to share information in the Aegean Sea, a practical solution where actually NATO ships are collecting information, doing monitoring and surveillance, and then sharing that information real-time with the Greek Navy, the Greek coastguards, and with the EU border agency, Frontex. So also in constant information sharing, different kinds of information sharing, I think there are ways to solve that in a practical way, taking into account the integrity and differences of NATO and the European Union.
HIGH REPRESENTATIVE MOGHERINI: When it comes to the Mediterranean, you know very well we have already a coordination mechanism in place, SHADE, that is working very well. And we have the experience in the Aegean, that is working indeed in a perfect way. It is true the situation in the Aegean and the Central Mediterranean is different. It’s different geography. It’s different situation we are facing there. It’s also a different kind of European Union presence. Obviously, in the Central Mediterranean, we have an operation up and running since several months operational. And that has achieved already some important results, saving lives, but also apprehending almost 70 suspect smugglers and neutralizing more than 100 boats.
Obviously, as we move to potential additional tasks of the operation, such as the training of the coast-guards of Libya or the potential work on the implementation of the UN Security Council Resolution on the arms embargo, we would need also to strengthen our assets and our capacities and the support and the cooperation with NATO in this respect could be essential.
There are many different valuable ways in which NATO could support our work in the Mediterranean. For sure, and we started to discuss that, for sure when it comes to intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities, but also when it comes to communication systems, logistics, there is a lot that NATO and the European Union can do together in the Central Mediterranean.
The important thing in this, and we agreed, is that we put at the service of the security of the Mediterranean and the security of the lives of the people that are crossing the Mediterranean, and at the service of dismantling the networks of smugglers, all the assets that we can, in a coordinated way, so that we do not have overlappings, that we manage to support the efforts that are already ongoing. And I am sure that we will work on that direction in a very practical way, as we managed to do very effectively in the Aegean.
QUESTION (DPA): Mr. Secretary General, a quick question on the NATO-Russia Council: Will NATO ask for a new meeting before the Summit in Warsaw? Did you agree on it yesterday evening, last night?
SECRETARY GENERAL: We discussed our relationship to Russia during our dinner last night. And we agreed on the dual-track approach, meaning that we need strong defence, deterrence, and we have to enhance our defence and deterrence, combined with political dialogue. And that was something which was very clearly expressed by all the ministers who took part in the debate. It’s a very strong and united NATO behind the message about defence and dialogue. There is no contradiction between strong defence and dialogue. Actually, we believe that strong defence and predictability, a firm approach is the best foundation for a political engagement with Russia.
Our practical cooperation with Russia remains suspended, but we have decided to keep channels for political dialogue open. And the NATO-Russia Council is one such platform for political dialogue. And we all agree that in current situation, we need a platform as the NATO-Russia Council to pursue transparency, predictability, and to work for enhancing mechanisms for risk reduction, to avoid dangerous situations, incidents which can spiral out of control.
We have seen the downing of Russian plane over Turkey. We have seen some unsafe behavior of Russian planes in the Baltic. This is the kind of situations which we have to try to avoid.
So we agree on the message of dialogue and defence. We are delivering on enhancing our deterrence and defence posture. But based on that, there was broad agreement yesterday, that NATO should convene a new meeting of the NATO-Russia Council before our next Summit in July. So we will now start to look into the modalities and practical arrangements around such a new meeting of the NATO-Russia Council.
QUESTION (Kiev Post): Thank you, to the High Representative, Russia’s war against Ukraine is now in its third year. Given all the trouble Russia is causing there and elsewhere, is it time to start talking about increasing sanctions and imposing a timeline for Russia’s continued refusal to meet its Minsk obligations? And to the Secretary General, when you hear critics call NATO obsolete, how do you react? And do you find any validity in the criticism?
HIGH REPRESENTATIVE: You know very well that decisions on the sanctions, on the existing sanctions, have been taken even recently. Let me also underline that all those that were foreseeing divisions in the European Union were always proven wrong. We’ve managed to build and keep our unity. Even if we have different points of view, this is an element of the richness of the European Union, not an element of weakness, in the moment when we manage to unite the differences on a single policy, and be united on its implementation.
We will have a political discussion in the coming weeks with the member states on the roll-over of the existing sanctions. There is no discussion at the moment on increasing the level of sanctions. And I also mentioned in last days the need to have, at a certain moment this year, a political reflection – I believe guided by Germany and France as the European members of the Normandy Format, together with the European Union obviously – on the assessment of the Minsk implementation and the way forward. But we are working every single day and every single night, most of the times, on the Minsk implementation. This is needed on all sides and at full. And this stays the European Union united position. Thank you.
SECRETARY GENERAL: NATO and NATO Allies face a more challenging and a more dangerous environment now than we have done for a long time. We see a more assertive Russia in the east, illegally annexing Crimea and destabilising eastern Ukraine. And we see all the turmoil over violence and instability to the south: Iraq, Syria, and North Africa.
And NATO is responding to this with the biggest enhancement of our collective defence since the end of the Cold War, with a combination of forward presence of troops, but also with increased ability to reinforce if needed. And the combination of defence and dialogue, which I just addressed.
We are also responding to threats and the challenges stemming from the south. We are supporting efforts in the region to build local capacity. We have started to training Iraqi officers. We are supporting Tunisia, Jordan, other countries in the region to enable them to fight terrorism, to stabilise their own countries. And we continue to support Afghanistan, which is high on our political agenda and which is also linked to our broader efforts to fight terrorism. We do this in cooperation with the European Union and others because NATO is part of a broader international effort. And we also work with the European Union in the Aegean.
So I think what we have seen is that NATO is as relevant and as important as ever because we live in a more dangerous world and therefore we need strong collective defence. We need a strong Alliance, which both understands the importance of military strength, but also the importance of diplomacy and political dialogue.
Yesterday, we signed the Accession Treaty for Montenegro, underlining that NATO is in the position where we are able to enlarge and NATO’s door is still open. So, especially in Montenegro, I think they feel that NATO is more relevant than ever, because they want to join the Alliance.