by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the joint press point with the Prime Minister of Italy, Matteo Renzi
Thank you so much. And let me start by confirming what you just said. And that is that this is my first time in Rome as Secretary General of NATO. I've been here many times before. But it's great to be here also in the capacity of Secretary General of NATO and to meet with you; because it is such a staunch Ally in NATO. And you have been a strong Ally ever since the foundation of the Alliance.
And I'm impressed by what I've seen. I'm impressed by your leadership. I'm impressed by your strong commitment personally to reforms, to reforming Italy. And now the economy in Italy is picking up. That's good for Italy. That's good for Europe. But it is also good for NATO because a strong economy is also important for our security.
And Italy is one of our biggest contributors to important NATO operations in Afghanistan and in Kosovo. And you are hosting important NATO installations as the NATO Defence Coalition in Rome but also the Joint Force Command in Naples. I'm going to visit both of them tomorrow.
And Italy is now contributing to the biggest changes in NATO Collective Defence since the end of the Cold War. We are making our forces more ready, more prepared by establishing a new Spearhead Force. And Italy is taking on the lead in that process together with six or five other NATO Allies. And I welcome the great contribution of Italy to increasing our collective defence.
And in addition, I think it is important to know that the increased preparedness and the increased readiness of our forces is important both for NATO to meet the challenges we are facing to the East with a more assertive Russia; but also the challenges we are facing to the South with turmoil instability, barbaric violence in North Africa and in the Middle East.
And we're also increasing our capacity for situational awareness. And we are developing a new system for ground surveillance: Alliance Ground Surveillance. And that's surveillance drones which are going to be based at the Sigonella base in Sicily, starting from next year. And that will just increase the importance of Italy as a staunch Ally with the Alliance.
We are particularly concerned about the terrifying situation in Libya and the high number of immigrants crossing the Mediterranean. And I would like to commend Italy for all the efforts and all what you're doing to receive the very high number of refugees and immigrants coming into your country.
And NATO's answer is to support Libya with advice on defence and security, institution building, as requested by the Libyan government.
Let me finally say some few words about Ukraine; because I know that you, Mister Prime Minister, that you're going to visit both Kiev and Moscow very soon.
And any attempts to expand further the territory held by separatists would be a clear violation of the Minsk Agreement and of the ceasefire. And it would be unacceptable to the international community. So I very much appreciate this opportunity to meet with you, Prime Minister Renzi; and to exchange views; and to develop the excellent cooperation between Italy and NATO. I'm looking forward to continue to cooperate with you.