by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the European Parliament Committee on Foreign Affairs and its Subcommittee on Security and Defence
Thank you so much Chairman and ladies and gentlemen.
It's really a great pleasure and honour to be back here in the European Parliament.
And to meet with so many distinguished parliamentarians.
And as some of you know I served as a member of the Norwegian parliament for 20 years so I know how important parliaments and parliamentarians are for the nations you are representing.
And I also know how important the European Parliament is for the European Union.
And moreover, I also know that 90 percent of the people living in a European Union country are also living in a NATO country.
Underlining how much NATO and the EU depend on each other.
So the relationship between NATO and the EU is of vital importance.
Today, Europe's security environment is more complex and more unpredictable than for a generation.
We live in an age of instability.
With complex and interconnected challenges.
We face a more assertive Russia which is destabilising the European security order.
And we face extremism and violence across the Middle East and North Africa.
Fuelling the worst refugee and migrant crisis in Europe since World War Two.
These challenges affect us all.
And NATO is responding.
Our response is building on three pillars
The need for more strength.
The need for more dialogue.
And the need to invest more in prevention, through our partners.
For each of these pillars, a strong relationship between the EU and NATO is essential.
Let me address all three of them and then I'm happy to answer your questions afterwards.
NATO is implementing the biggest increase in our collective defence since the end of the Cold War.
Not to wage war, but to prevent war
To send a clear signal.
That an attack on any NATO Ally will be met by forces from across the whole Alliance, including from North America.
This link between North America and Europe is crucial.
NATO binds the United States and Canada to the security of Europe.
The United States accounts for more two thirds of defence spending in NATO.
And has around 70,000 troops and essential equipment deployed in Europe.
After Russia's aggressive actions in Ukraine, America responded with a multi-million dollar reassurance initiative for Europe.
Earlier this month, US Defence Secretary Ash Carter asked the Congress to increase that funding four times, to $3.4 billion in 2017.
This will mean more forces, more training and exercises, and more prepositioning of equipment and infrastructure here in Europe.
It is a clear demonstration of America's enduring commitment to European security.
And it is a solid base for NATO's recent decision to increase our forward presence of troops in the eastern countries of the Alliance.
This presence will be persistent, multinational, and underpinned by robust exercises.
European Allies are also stepping up to the plate.
In 2014, NATO leaders agreed to stop cuts in defence spending.
And to increase spending to at least 2% of GDP over the next decade.
One year in, the picture is mixed, but it is encouraging.
In 2015, defence cuts were close to zero.
Five Allies now meet our guideline on spending 2 percent of GDP or more on defence.
16 Allies actually increased in real terms their defence spending in 2015.
These are promising first steps.
But we have a long way to go.
My second point is that while NATO is strong, we are also open for dialogue.
NATO does not seek confrontation.
We do not want a new Cold War.
And there is no contradiction between defence and dialogue.
On the contrary, strong defence creates the basis for political dialogue.
We continue to strive for a more constructive and more cooperative relationship with Russia.
We want dialogue because dialogue can increase predictability and transparency.
Dialogue that reduces the risk of incidents or accidents. And if incidents do happen, avoids further escalation.
The downing of the Russian fighter plane over Turkey underlines how urgent this is.
My third point, is to invest in prevention, by building local capacity.
NATO has to be ready to deploy large numbers of combat forces to manage crises. As we have done in the Balkans and in Afghanistan.
But in the long run, it is better to prevent crises than to manage them.
Better to build local forces than deploy foreign troops.
The crises we face clearly show that the security of Europe depends on the stability of its neighbours.
NATO's partnerships are an essential tool in the promotion of stability, respect for the rule of law, and human rights.
In the east, NATO is working with Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova, so they can better resist outside pressure.
Helping them in different ways to build their defence capacity, modernise their institutions and strengthen their reforms.
In the south, our partnerships extend across the Middle East and North Africa.
We are supporting the defence capacity of Jordan.
Next month, we will start to train Iraqi officers.
We are also working with Tunisia on Special Forces and intelligence.
And we stand ready to support Libya if requested by the national unity government.
On Syria, I would like to state that I welcome the agreement reached yesterday on the cessation of hostilities in Syria.
NATO supports all efforts to reach a negotiated end to this terrible conflict, and to set the conditions for a peaceful political transition.
What is important now is that all sides respect the terms of the agreement.
And ensure that it is both implemented, and effectively monitored.
All our 28 Allies are part of the Global Coalition against ISIL.
The success of the coalition is based on the ability of nations to work together.
Which NATO has developed over decades, from Kosovo to Afghanistan and through extensive exercises.
Two weeks ago, NATO Defence Ministers decided that NATO would join international efforts to deal with the refugee and migrant crisis.
NATO's Standing Maritime Group was immediately deployed to the Aegean.
Our ships will provide information to help NATO Allies, Greece and Turkey, as well as Frontex.
Supporting them in their efforts to cut the lines of illegal trafficking and illegal migration.
In recent days, I have spoken to President Tusk, President Juncker, the High Representative Mogherini and to Commissioner Avramopoulos.
We are now developing the necessary framework of cooperation between the EU and NATO.
NATO is strong.
We are open for dialogue.
And we are working with our partners.
The European Union is an essential partner for NATO.
Since becoming NATO Secretary General, I have made a special effort to bring NATO and the EU closer together.
Our efforts are complementary.
Each organisation brings its own unique blend of expertise, experience and capabilities.
I fully support the EU's plans for a stronger defence industry.
In particular, the European Commission's Defence Action Plan.
It addresses issues that are important to Allies on both sides of the Atlantic.
So a close dialogue will be mutually beneficial.
We are also looking at ways in enhancing our cooperation to address hybrid threats and hybrid attacks.
In key areas such as early warning, strategic communications, civil-military cooperation and cyber.
Ladies and gentlemen.
Separately, we are already making a difference.
But together, our impact could be much greater.
This summer offers important opportunities.
The meeting of the European Council in June and the NATO Summit in July will be a chance to cement our unity and our practical cooperation.
To show that, by working together, NATO and the European Union can add real value.
This will be a big year for cooperation between NATO and the EU.
A chance to set the course for the years ahead.
And to demonstrate how we are working not just side-by-side, but also hand-in-hand.
Thank you so much for your attention.