Mr. Chairman, dear Jeppe,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Thank you, Mr Chairman, for your kind introduction. This is the first time that I have spoken in the Folketing since I was Prime Minister. I served as a member of this Parliament for 31 years – so I remember this lectern very well. And I am grateful to have this opportunity to stand here again.
I see many familiar faces. Fellow parliamentarians. Friends and colleagues that I have known for many years. And many others who I have met more recently. It is a pleasure to speak to all of you today.
In English, the word “Folketing” translates as “the place where the people gather.” You are representatives from the 27 member-states of the European Union, which is the place where all our peoples gather. So it is appropriate that we should meet in this chamber. Because we will discuss how we can work together to preserve the values that all our peoples hold dear – freedom, democracy, and the rule of law. And how to preserve our prosperity, and our security, in an age of austerity.
My last Opening Address to this chamber concerned the financial crisis. That was in 2008. Nearly four years later, we are still dealing with its consequences. And all areas of public spending have come under close scrutiny in every one of our countries.
For me, the financial crisis is one more reason why we should strive for greater cooperation between the European Union and NATO. The benefit is clear. If we work together, then both our institutions can emerge stronger from these times of economic difficulty.
There is much that we already do.
In Kosovo, the NATO-led peacekeeping force works jointly with the European Union Rule of Law Mission to assist and support the Kosovo authorities.
In Afghanistan, a European Union police mission works hand-in-hand with a NATO training mission in that country.
And off the coast of Somalia, NATO and European Union forces are deployed side-by-side to combat piracy.
These are all examples of concrete cooperation between our two organisations where it matters most – on operations. And it’s happening right now, as we meet.
But -- for everything the EU and NATO are doing, there is so much more that we could be doing. More in terms of money and resources that we could be saving. For our institutions. For our budgets. And for our taxpayers. And not just in our defence budgets. In our foreign affairs and development aid budgets, too. If we coordinated more. Cooperated more. And shared more of our capabilities.
At NATO, we have already made progress in this regard. Our ‘Smart Defence’ initiative is a new mindset that seeks to better align our collective requirements with national priorities.
It means deciding not just to cut, but what we keep, or what we decide to specialise in.
And it means multilateral cooperation. It is increasingly difficult for individual Allies to afford the acquisition of advanced military equipment. If we help each other, if we pool and share resources, if we go for multilateral solutions, then we have a better chance to purchase the necessary military capabilities.
To that end, we also need a close coordination and close cooperation between NATO and the EU.
Two years ago, at the EU Defence Ministers’ meeting in Palma de Mallorca, I made several proposals to address this problem. I said that the EU and NATO must have regular discussions, at all levels, on the entire spectrum of common security threats. That we need to work together more closely in operations. And that we must get a higher return on our defence spending through reducing duplication and using scarce resources more efficiently.
To achieve these goals, I suggested a “two-way street” approach. On the one hand, all EU members should be able to participate in NATO-EU cooperation. And on the other hand, the EU should reinforce its political and military relations with those NATO Allies who are not members of the EU. This would include an overall security agreement between the EU and Turkey. And an arrangement between Turkey and the European Defence Agency.
These proposals are still on the table. But, frankly, not much progress has been made.
And let me be clear:
We cannot defend to taxpayers our inability to find ways to combine our efforts, seek efficiencies, and deliver better results.
On the ground, our soldiers and civilian experts have learned to cooperate – because they must. Their mission depends upon it. And so do their lives. But in Brussels, we are still prevented from having formal talks between NATO and the European Union on any subject other than Bosnia. That makes no sense.
As our operations have multiplied, the need for cooperation has only grown. NATO’s mission in Libya is a case in point. While some European Allies - and one non-Allied member of the EU - shouldered heavy burdens. The operation also demonstrated significant shortfalls in a range of European capabilities – from smart munitions, to air-to-air refuelling, and intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance.
We have seen some welcome steps to address these shortfalls. One is the initiative by Denmark for joint acquisition and stockpiling of weapons and ammunitions. That should help participating countries save money while ensuring that the munitions are readily available when they are needed.
I am also encouraged by the progress that the European Defence Agency is making on pooling and sharing. And I particularly welcome the leadership of the European Defence Agency in addressing the European shortfall in air-to-air refuelling. This is a critical capability. And if European nations manage to deliver in this area, that will benefit both the EU and NATO.
In the end, we must be pragmatic. The European Union and NATO have 21 members in common. But each of those nations has only one set of tax-payers, one set of armed forces and one set of capabilities. We need to get the most out of those forces and capabilities. That will benefit our organisations, our taxpayers, and our security.
We must strive to consult and cooperate more often. And we must ensure that our organisations complement each other. At the very least, regular meetings must become part-and-parcel of the way we operate. So the pragmatic approach that we have seen on operations translates into greater political pragmatism back in Brussels. If our soldiers can do it, so can we.
Ladies and gentlemen,
We have faced difficult problems before, and with perseverance, we have found solutions. In this very city. In 2002, during the Danish presidency of the European Union, when negotiations for EU enlargement were long, hard, and on the verge of failure.
Then, we went the extra distance. And that additional effort made all the difference -- we added ten new nations to the European Union.
We know what we need to do. But politically, doing nothing is sometimes easier than doing what is necessary. We all know how powerful inertia can be.
The common threats we face don’t suffer from political inertia. They are on the move -- fast. Terrorism. Weapons of mass destruction. Piracy. Cyber attacks. And many others.
To confront these threats, we need to work together. And to do this successfully, we need a stronger NATO-EU relationship. A relationship that matches what we are already doing together on the ground. And that will help to preserve our freedom, our security, and our prosperity.