by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the Council of the European Union
Good afternoon. I am looking forward to meet the European Council once again. A strong European Union is important for all of us. Also important for NATO and therefore I welcome the global strategy which is going to be presented today. This strategy highlights the importance of a strong European Union and cooperation between the European Union and NATO. And this has not changed after the vote in the United Kingdom. I think it will take some time before we are able to see all the consequences and it is up to the United Kingdom and the European Union to find the way forward.
What I can do is to tell what matters for NATO and that is that:
Firstly, the United Kingdom will remain a strong and committed ally in NATO. The position of the United Kingdom in NATO has not changed and I welcome that because the United Kingdom is a strong and committed ally, responsible for almost one quarter of defence spending among European NATO allied countries.
The second message is that. Cooperation between NATO and the European Union was important before the UK vote but it has become even more important after. So one of the issues I will discuss with the leaders in the European Council is how we can further strengthen NATO-EU cooperation. We have made a lot of progress. I would like to see even more progress on issues like hybrid, cyber our presence in the Mediterranean. We have successfully worked together with the European Union in the Aegean sea and now looking into what more we can do in the central parts of the Mediterranean.
And my third message is that we are on track preparing for the Warsaw Summit. The Warsaw Summit will be important for the whole of Europe because we will make decisions on deterrence and defence on projecting stability into our neighbourhood. And on how we can enhance and further strengthen cooperation with the European Union. And the European Council meeting today and the Warsaw NATO Summit next week are two very important platforms and opportunities to strengthen the cooperation between NATO and the European Union. To show unity and to strengthen cooperation.
Q: You said you were against the duplication of efforts. Would a new headquarters for the E.U. be a duplication of NATO efforts?
JENS STOLTENBERG (NATO Secretary General): So, I welcome efforts from European countries to strengthen their defense capabilities and to strengthen defense cooperation. The important thing is to avoid duplication and NATO has well-established structures which are, which are tested and tried over decades and they are an important part of the NATO cooperation and therefore I welcome efforts to strengthen defense capacities among European countries but the important thing is to avoid duplication. For me it is important also to underline that an increased defense spending is important among European allies because without more investments in our security we will not be able in the long run to deliver the capabilities we need.
Q: Secretary Stoltenberg can you elaborate why it’s more important now that the E.U. and NATO work together than before the Brexit vote?
JENS STOLTENBERG: So my message today is about cooperation and about unity and unity and cooperation was of course important also before the U.K. vote. It has become even more important now because we have to send a clear message that the vote of the U.K. to leave the European Union does not mean that we are not able to cooperate, to work together and NATO provides a platform for Trans-Atlantic cooperation. I welcome more cooperation within Europe, within the European Union but NATO can also contribute to defense and security cooperation between European NATO allies.
Q: … [inaudible] jeopardized by the Brits, I mean were there any question marks?
JENS STOLTENBERG: It’s up to the European Union and United Kingdom to decide the way forward and how they handle the situation after the U.K. decision to leave the European Union. That’s not for me or NATO to decide. But what I can say is what matters for NATO and for NATO it matters that the United Kingdom will remain a strong and committed NATO ally, nothing will change when it comes to the U.K. position in NATO. It matters that we are able to enhance NATO-E.U. cooperation and it matters that we are together delivering on the adaptation of the defense and the [terms ?] which will be one of the main issues at our Summit in Warsaw.
Q: Are you worried that economic turmoil is going to reduce British defense spending over time?
JENS STOLTENBERG: United Kingdom has been very clear and very committed to our goal of spending two percent of GDP on defense and the United Kingdom is one of the NATO allies which has delivered on that pledge for many many years and I expect them to continue to do so. And what United Kingdom does matter because the United Kingdom is the biggest European defense spender among the European NATO allies and provides almost one quarter of defense investments among European NATO allies. So, I’ve been assured by the British government that they will continue to be committed; they will continue to meet their pledges and to be as strong as they have been for many years in the Alliance.
MODERATOR: Thank you very much.