Media doorstep

by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the Defence Ministers Meeting of the European Union Foreign Affairs Council

  • 19 Apr. 2016 -
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  • Last updated: 19 Apr. 2016 13:34

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg delivers a doorstep statement upon his arrival at the European Foreign Affairs Council in Luxembourg

We are going to discuss NATO’s presence in the Aegean Sea when I now meet with the Defence Ministers from the European Union. And NATO has deployed six ships to the Aegean Sea. They are doing reconnaissance, surveillance and providing real-time information to the Turkish coastguard, to the Greek coastguard and also the the EU border agency Frontex. And I think that the cooperation seen in the Aegean Sea between NATO and the EU is of great importance, partly because NATO provides practical support to the efforts of the local coastguards and of the EU to manage the situation. But also because NATO provides a platform for closer cooperation for Turkey, a non-EU member, to cooperate closer with the EU and that is important in managing the situation.

Then it’s too early to say how we are going to address also the challenges we see in other parts of the Mediterranean. We are now transforming our maritime operation Active Endeavour into a maritime security operation and that provides also the basis for a closer cooperation with the EU in the Mediterranean in general.

How we will do that and in what ways that’s too early to say.

I will just add that I’m looking forward to meet the Defence Ministers of the EU. And I think that the EU Summit or Council in June and the NATO Summit in July provides a very good platform for enhanced cooperation between the EU and NATO. And we will look into how we can expand that cooperation and I think we see different areas where there is great value of NATO and the EU working together. For instance Libya. NATO stands ready to provide support to the new government of national accord. I strongly welcome the strong will in the EU to support the new government and there is a need for making sure that what we do is complementary, that we add value and that we coordinate our efforts to support the new unity government or the government of national accord in Libya. And we are in direct contact with the new Libyan government, looking into how NATO can provide support if so requested by the new government.

Then, the Aegean Sea.

There I welcome the close cooperation between NATO and the European Union and we are seeing a significant reduction in the number of migrants and refugees coming to the Greek islands. I think that shows that international efforts have an impact and the aim is to cut the lines of illegal smuggling of people. And try to find solutions so we can have a much safer and much better and well-organised situation in the whole region and in the Aegean Sea.
Hybrid warfare is another area where there is a need for enhanced cooperation between the EU and NATO. This is about threats and challenges which is a mixture of military and non-military means, covert and overt operations, so there is an obvious need for coordination between NATO and the EU.

I will also update the EU ministers on our dialogue with Russia. And tomorrow we will have the first meeting of the NATO-Russia Council since 2014 and we will address the Ukraine, the crisis in and around Ukraine, military activity, transparency, risk reductions and Afghanistan. And I think that the incidents we have seen in the Baltic Sea over the last week with the unprofessional and unsafe behavior of Russian planes close to an American ship and also close to an American plane just underlines the importance of open military lines of communications, of predictability and risk reduction. And these are among the issues we will discuss Russia tomorrow at the NATO-Russia Council.

Q & A

QUESTION: Do you expect any concrete outcome from the NATO-Russia Council tomorrow?
SECRETARY GENERAL STOLTENBERG: It is very important that we have political dialogue. Especially when times are difficult as they are now. So when the tensions are high, I think the need for open chance, for political dialogue, for predictability, for transparency is even more important. So, the main purpose of the meeting of the NATO-Russia Council tomorrow is to exchange views, is to be transparent, is to contribute to predictability.  And to discuss Ukraine, the implementation if the Minsk agreements, and also to address how we can enhance the mechanisms of risk reduction related to military activities as we have seen in the Baltic Sea with the dangerous incidents we have seen there in the last week.

QUESTION: Russia sees the modernization of NATO very differently. It sees it as a threat. Do you think that it’s something you will discuss tomorrow?
SECRETARY GENERAL STOLTENBERG: So, we will discuss military activity. And of course I expect the Russians to say and to present their view. And that is the reason why we meet them, because we are not afraid of dialogue. Actually, we think that dialogue is more important when times are difficult, when tensions are high. And since we face some really serious challenges, now I think it is especially important that we are able to meet the Russians and expect them to express their view. We will present our view. And l would like to underline that the fact that we are now convening a meeting of the NATO-Russia Council does not mean that we are back to business as normal. We decided back in 2014 to suspend practical cooperation, and we have also implemented the biggest reinforcement of our collective defence since the end of the Cold War, but we have decided to keep the chance for political dialogue open and the NATO-Russia Council is one way of making sure that we have political dialogue with Russia. And NATO does not seek a new Cold War. NATO does not want a new arms raise. And what NATO has done when it comes to reinforcement of our collective defense is defensive, it is proportionate and it is a direct response to what we have seen of Russian aggressive behavior in Ukraine.

QUESTION: You mentioned possible NATO’s support for the new Libyan government. What would that mean in concrete terms?
SECRETARY GENERAL STOLTENBERG: We have a mandate from our Heads of State and Government to stand ready to provide support for the new Libyan government or the government of national accord. And what we are looking into especially is capacity building, defence institutional reform, because we have seen how important it is to have these institutions in place when we try to build a more stable Libya. But of course, this is something which will only be done after requests from the new government of national accord. And we are not planning for new combat operations in Libya, so this is about supporting the government if they so request.

QUESTION: What about more warships to help with the migrant crisis?
SECRETARY GENERAL STOLTENBERG: We have six ships there now, and we are constantly assessing the need for more ships. So far we have a sufficient number of ships, but of course there are rotations, and some ships are leaving, others are coming, we will discuss how to sustain this presence. And we will of course do that in very close cooperation with Turkey, with Greece, and with the EU. So, I welcome the contributions from different NATO Allied countries and they have provided different kinds of capabilities. And what the NATO ships are doing is reconnaissance, surveillance, collecting information and then sharing this information in real time with the local coastguards, and then we have seen many examples of how, for instance, the Turkish coastguard take action based upon the information they have received from NATO ships.

QUESTION: Could the Aegean mission link up with Sophia in terms of sharing information?
SECRETARY GENERAL STOLTENBERG: I will not speculate on that because now we are focused on the Aegean and I think we have proven how NATO and the EU can work closer together, and also how NATO can bring together a non-EU state Turkey in a closer cooperation with the EU and that is of the importance itself – create a platform for coordination and cooperation. Then we have the Active Endeavour mission which we are now transforming into a Maritime Security mission and we expect that to be done by the NATO Summit in July. And whether that can create a basis for a closer cooperation with Sophia, naval mission of the EU, I will not speculate on. I think we just sit down with the EU and discuss with them how we can work together and based on the Aegean whether we can do anything more in the Mediterranean more in general.