It is a real pleasure to welcome Prime Minister Fico to Brussels. I am particularly pleased to see you at NATO Headquarters so recently after your election win last month.
Slovakia is a valued Ally. You troops do a great job in Afghanistan. And you are committed to modernise Slovakian defence capabilities despite the budgetary pressures.
We discussed our three key priorities for the Chicago summit which will take place in less than a month from now – Afghanistan, capabilities, and partnerships. At Chicago, we will demonstrate our commitment to complete transition to full Afghan security responsibility by the end of 2014. And to continue supporting Afghanistan after 2014, so that it remains stable and secure – because it is in the interest of our own security.
And we have discussed how Slovakia will continue to play its role to further strengthening NATO and achieving our agenda for Chicago.
I am glad the Prime Minister confirmed Slovakia’s determination to continue its commitment to Afghanistan. Slovakia is also exploring a number of multinational projects that will enhance our collective capabilities and enable Allies to do more together than each can afford to do on their own. And Slovakia is continuing to transform its military to be more effective and deployable, but also to find efficiencies through reforms.
Finally, I would like to thank you for the valuable role that Slovakia plays in the region. At Chicago, we will send a clear signal that NATO’s door remains open. Because Euro-Atlantic integration remains the most effective way to bring lasting stability in Europe.
ROBERT FICO (Prime Minister of Slovakia): Secretary General, thank you very much for meeting. And I would like to point out that my visit to Brussels is not only working but also symbolic. Because I'd like to reaffirm that NATO remains for Slovakia a cornerstone of our security. So this is the reason why I'm here in Brussels to confirm our commitment to NATO as a member state.
As you have already mentioned, Slovakia remains committed to Afghanistan mission. Together with other Allies, we will focus on successful transformation of our engagement in Afghanistan.
During our meeting I reassured the Secretary General that Slovakia will remain in operation as long as necessary. We will be looking at ways how to contribute to NATO's engagement in Afghanistan after 2014 as well. Our contribution to the stabilization of the country will not be limited only to military engagement.
Already today, Afghanistan is one of the priorities of our official development aid. The most acute challenge of today is the financial consolidation of the situation in Europe that has an impact on defence austerity.
We consider Smart Defence initiative as a tool to bridge the gap between our ambitions and capabilities. We want to make full use of it on a NATO level, joining multinational projects and regionally as well.
The Visegrád Group has made a statement last week stressing our resolve to work more closely together. On the national level, I assured the Secretary General that my government will use the strong mandate it got in the elections in order to enhance the situation in our armed forces.
Last but not least, I felt the need to express our strong and continued commitment to NATO enlargement. The door must remain open for new members. And I ask openly, Secretary General, to declare something during the summit in Chicago. Because countries that would like to become new member states of NATO really deserve some level of support and encouragement.
But we have to keep on working. The Slovak experience showed that NATO enlargement is one of the most efficient tools to promote our values; to expand the area of peace and stability; and to make NATO stronger. So Secretary General, thank you very much for this meeting. It was for me very useful. Thank you very much.
OANA LUNGESCU (NATO Spokesperson): We have time for a couple of questions. If you want to put up your hands and introduce yourselves. Over there please.
Q: Andrej Matisak, Daily Pravda, Slovakia. My question is related to the missile defence. In 2009, there was a similar press conference in Bratislava. And Prime... you were prime minister at the time, and you're again the prime minister. And you said that Slovakia won't put any part of missile defence in our territory if... when you're the prime minister. But now this is one of the priorities of NATO: the cooperation on missile defence. So could you elaborate more on the position of Slovakia related to missile defence, thank you?
ROBERT FICO: Missile defence is the project of NATO. And Slovakia is a member state of NATO. On the other hand, I have to say that we do not have in Slovakia technical abilities to be involved directly in this project. And thirdly, I'd like to point out that it is necessary to communicate not only within the NATO member states but also with the countries that are not member states of NATO, mainly with Russia. I hope that Secretary General will confirm that I put question during our meeting about relations between NATO and Russia; and how these relations between NATO and Russia are influenced by different opinions on defence... missile defence. That's about what I can say at this moment.
OANA LUNGESCU: I think you have a follow-up.
Q: OK, (inaudible) ... something... something different. Another question would be on Smart Defence. I would like to ask Secretary General how can... perhaps how can NATO enhance the cooperation within the Visegrád Four countries. Because the Smart Defence is one of the... now, the very new... still very new concept within the NATO. So what do you think? How NATO can enhance the cooperation within the Visegrád Group military cooperation, defence cooperation? Thank you.
ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: First of all, I welcome the Visegrád initiative. It is an excellent example of Smart Defence actually. It's an excellent example of how countries in the region can enhance their cooperation with the aim to acquire much needed military capabilities. So we appreciate very much the Visegrád initiative. I think the way forward is to strengthen multinational cooperation including regional cooperation. And the Visegrád initiative is an excellence example of that.
How can NATO facilitate that? NATO can serve as the forum for consultations among Allies as to how they can help each other. We can act as what we sometimes call a clearing house in which countries that are interested in multinational cooperation they can meet and discuss how to bring forward multinational projects.
And actually within NATO we have a well-established so-called defence planning process which aims at ensuring that the individual defence plans in individual nations fit well into the overall need for capabilities within NATO. So that each individual country can contribute to the Alliance as such in a way that makes it possible for the Alliance to live up to our levels of ambition. So NATO is a very important instrument for the Allies to strengthen their cooperation with a view to acquiring needed military capabilities.
OANA LUNGESCU: Thank you very much.