Good afternoon. It is a great pleasure to welcome Prime Minister Ponta to Brussels. I am particularly pleased to meet you here at NATO Headquarters so recently after you took office.
Romania is a staunch Ally. I very much appreciate your commitment to the Alliance in spite of economic difficulties. Romania knows that our security is priceless. You make an important contribution to our operations in Afghanistan and Kosovo. And you are an important voice in our dialogue and decision-making between Allies.
We discussed our key priorities for our summit next week in Chicago – Afghanistan, smart defence and partnerships.
On Afghanistan: in Chicago we will set out how we intend to complete the transition to full Afghan security by the end of 2014. And make clear our continued support to Afghan security forces beyond 2014, so that Afghanistan remains stable and secure.
On capabilities, which will be the second item on the agenda, Chicago will show we are learning the lessons from our operations and our commitment to keeping NATO fit for purpose and fit for the future. When defence budgets are under pressure, NATO can help Allies build greater security with fewer resources, by adopting a new approach: Smart Defence. The NATO missile defence system is an excellent example.
I welcome Romania’s active posture on Smart Defence: by agreeing to host a key part of the NATO Missile Defence system, you are making an important contribution to our shared security. And Romania is also taking part in key NATO projects: C-17 transport aircraft and Allied Ground Surveillance drone programme. Such contributions are essential to the strength of our Alliance.
In Chicago, we will also demonstrate NATO’s determination to broaden and deepen our partnerships.
Prime minister, I would like to thank you for the role Romania plays in building strong relationships with our partners, especially in the Western Balkans.
Mr Prime minister, I count on your Government’s support for Romania’s continued contribution to the Alliance and the ambitious agenda we have in front of us, for Chicago and beyond.
VICTOR PONTA (Prime Minister of Romania): Thank you very much, Secretary General. I appreciate the meeting with you just a few days after the new cabinet was formed and voted by the Romanian Parliament.
I came here, together with the new Minister of Finance just to give you a very strong and clear message that even coming from a different political coalition, the new government is fully committed with the Romanian participation and obligation as a full member of NATO.
We strongly believe that all our commitments should be respected and should be very clearly stated in the Chicago Summit. Of course, we realize that it's very important for our country, and for NATO, to be together and to follow together the same schedule in the Afghanistan issue, and to work together in the missile defence system. And all the other important projects that we have together.
I just wanted to assure you, Secretary General, that we are very proud of being a member of NATO. We are fully committed to our strategy and you can count on Romania as a serious, reliable and predictable member of NATO.
OANA LUNGESCU (NATO Spokesperson): Romanian News Agency, AGERPRES.
Q: A question for Prime Minister Ponta. In the context of Afghanistan and during the context of transition process in Afghanistan, some allied members already announced their intention or plans to reconfigure their troops on the ground, or to scale down their troops on the ground. In this regard which are Romanian plans during the transition process? But also post 2014? Thank you.
VICTOR PONTA: As you certainly know these kind of decisions are taken according to the constitutional requirements by the Supreme Council of Defence. But I can assure you that the new government is sharing the views of the president and the former governments that Romania should fulfil... fully fulfil our commitments in Afghanistan, and all our decisions are not going to be taken unilaterally, but fully coordinated with our partners and according to the schedule and the calendar that have been together approved by all the NATO members.
OANA LUNGESCU: Romania Radio.
Q: A question for the Secretary General. Secretary General, I suppose you have discussed also with the Prime Minister NATO-Russia relationship. In any case, I would like to know if you have received any answer from Russia to your invitation you send to Moscow to participate in the discussions on Afghanistan in Chicago? And secondly, I would like to know your opinion, or how do you comment on what was said last week in Moscow at the conference on missile defence system when Russian officials said that NATO missile defence system could be targeted by the Russian defence system.
ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN (NATO Secretary General): Yes, I would expect Russia to participate in the ISAF meeting in Chicago. Yet, we have not received an answer as to who will participate, but I would expect Russian participation in Chicago in the ISAF meeting, on Afghanistan.
Next, on missile defence. Once again, let me stress that the NATO missile defence system is not directed against Russia. So it's not justified to take offensive measures against NATO or NATO countries because of our decision to develop a missile defence to protect our populations effectively against a growing missile threat.
Really I do believe that it is an essential thing that responsible politicians do what they can to protect their populations effectively when they realize that there is a growing threat. And there is a growing threat, a growing missile threat. And of course, we have an obligation to protect our populations against that threat.
And we will do so in a way that is not directed against Russia. We have told the Russians that our system is not designed technically to attack Russia or undermine what they call their strategic deterrents. So technically it's not possible.
Politically we have no intention to attack Russia. It's... let me be very open. It's ridiculous to think that we have any intention to attack Russia. We do not consider Russia an enemy. And already 15 years ago Russia and NATO agreed in a common document called the Founding Act, that we will not use force against each other. NATO is still committed to that clear declaration. I hope Russia is also committed to that joint declaration from 1997 so that Russia will not use force against NATO countries.
And finally, I think the best way Russia could get what they call a guarantee would actually be to cooperate actively with us, because then they could see with their own eyes that our system is not directed against Russia.
So that's my very clear message to Russia.
OANA LUNGESCU: Thank you very much.