Joint press point

with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and the Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany, Angela Merkel

  • 02 Jun. 2016 -
  • |
  • Last updated: 03 Jun. 2016 09:35

(As delivered)

Joint press conference with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and German Chancellor Angela Merkel

Thank you so much Chancellor Merkel – dear Angela. Let me start by expressing my condolences on the loss of lives in connection with the flooding and express my sympathy to the families who have lost their loved ones.

It is great to be back here in Berlin and to see you again.

And I appreciate our friendship which as you said we have developed over many years, to when we worked together when I was prime minister. And now in my new capacity as Secretary General of NATO.

I thank you for everything you do for our Alliance.

And Germany is at the heart of Europe and at the heart of our Alliance.

And through NATO, you help preserve the peaceful order of Europe.

And that is important for Germany, it is important for Europe, and it’s important for the whole Alliance.

You make outstanding contributions to our operations in Afghanistan and Kosovo.

You play a major role in our Baltic Air Policing mission, and you also have a lead role in our new high-readiness joint task force, and Germany was key in establishing our presence in the Aegean Sea coping with the migrant and refugee crisis.

And I very much welcome your decision to boost the size of the Bundeswehr. And also your commitment to increase defence spending.

This is a clear demonstration of Germany’s leadership, at a time when we are facing the biggest security challenges in a generation.

A more assertive Russia to the east.

And turmoil and violence in the Middle East and North Africa.

NATO is responding to this more dangerous and more challenging security environment. 

We are responding in many different ways. We are responding by increasing the readiness of our forces. And by enhancing our presence in the eastern part of the Alliance.

At the Warsaw Summit, we will take steps to enhance our forward presence.

With several reinforced battalions in the Eastern part of our Alliance.

And I am grateful to Germany because Germany is ready to be a framework nation, a lead nation, for one of these reinforced battalions.

What NATO does is defensive, it is proportionate and in line with our international commitments.

We are strengthening our collective defence not to provoke a conflict but to prevent a conflict. We do not want confrontation with Russia. On the contrary, we strive for a more constructive relationship with Russia.

And we keep channels for political dialogue open. Dialogue is even more important when tensions are high.

To protect our own territory, we must also be ready to project stability beyond our own borders.

Therefore, we are training Iraqi officers in Jordan. We assist Jordan and Tunisia to strengthen their defence capacity. And we stand ready to help the new government in Libya, if so requested, as part of a broader UN led effort.

I welcome very much Germany’s leadership in responding to the refugee and migrant crisis.

I recently visited the German flagship of NATO’s deployment in the Aegean, and I was very impressed.We have seen a substantial reduction in the numbers of crossings due to the broad international effort which NATO is a part of.

We agreed that NATO can and should do more in responding to the challenges emanating from the south.

We are now discussing what more we can do to enhance our training of Iraqi officers and soldiers.

And we are looking into how we can extend our maritime security activity in the Mediterranean.

Because one of the most effective weapons we have in the fight against terrorism is to help local forces defend their own countries and to fight terrorism themselves.

And that is exactly what we do in Afghanistan where we train, advise and assist national security forces. And I commend Germany for its key role in Afghanistan being a lead nation in the north. NATO will stay engaged in Afghanistan and we will restate our commitment to Afghanistan at our Warsaw Summit.

In dealing with all these challenges, it is important that we step up our cooperation with the EU.

And I know that we are now preparing for a very ambitious agenda at the Warsaw Summit.

And I look forward to work with you approaching the Summit and addressing the many different challenges we face together in the North Atlantic Alliance.

Thank you.

Q:  The question is for Chancellor Merkel. You were an ambassador for Stoltenberg to have this job as Secretary General; you call him a close friend.  Now some time after he’s started this job how would you say he’s performing his job? Is he living up to your expectations? Thank you.

ANGELA MERKEL (German Chancellor):  [through interpretation] I must say that I’m never someone who would rate somebody else or give him some kind of, let’s say, grade him as it were but I’ve always been a very close collaborator with him when he was Prime Minister. We worked together very well and I’m very much, I’m very happy that I can work together with him as Secretary General and I think he has a steady hand at the rudder and I think the NATO is very happy to have him as Secretary General.

Q:  [Through interpretation] Secretary General, I’m over here, Secretary General could you please perhaps characterize yet again the relationship that the alliance has with Russia. That is to say are the NATO member states in a new cold war with Russia? How would you describe the current state of affairs? And addressed to Chancellor Merkel, today the Bundestag took a vote on the Armenia Resolution. I would be interested whether this in 2016 is right to do so? There have been fast reactions from Turkey, what do you think does mean for the future of the German Turkish relationship?

JENS STOLTENBERG (NATO Secretary General):  We are not in a new cold war but we are neither in the strategic partnership we tried to develop with Russia after the end of the Cold War. What we see is a more assertive Russia, we don’t see any imminent threat against any NATO ally but we see a Russia which over a long period of time has invested heavily in defence capabilities, in modernizing their armed forces and we have seen a Russia which has been willing to use military force to change borders in Europe for the first time since the end of the Second World War with the illegal annexation of Crimea. And therefore NATO has to respond and that’s exactly what we are doing and we are responding partly be implementing the biggest reinforcement to our collective defence since the end of the Cold War both with increased readiness and preparedness of our forces. We have tripled the size of the NATO Response Force, being able to deploy and to reinforce if needed on very short notice and we’re also increasing our presence in the eastern part of the alliance and Germany’s playing a key role both when it comes to high readiness and when it comes to enhanced forward presence of NATO troops in the eastern part of the alliance. Our message is that we don’t seek confrontation with Russia; we don’t want a new arms race. So therefore we are combining the message of collective defence with a very strong message about that we want dialogue, we want to keep the channels for political contact open with Russia and we continue to strive for a more cooperative and constructive relationship with Russia. We don’t believe there is a contradiction between defence and dialogue, actually we believe that we have, as long as we have a strong defence, as long as we have credible deterrence then we can also engage in political dialogue with Russia aiming at improving the relationship with our neighbour.

ANGELA MERKEL:  [through interpretation] As to the vote that is to be taken in the German Bundestag I would like to underline and to this particularly in the presence of the NATO Secretary General that Turkey and Germany are linked by a number of interests and although we may disagree on certain issues we have a relationship that has a very broad base, a very broad spectrum also where we have common interests starting from defence issues all the way to after all the 3 million citizens who live here in Germany that are of Turkish origin. And I and the whole of my government would like to contribute to a situation where if we look back over history a hundred and one years that we would want to foster dialogue between Turkey and Armenia. We want to do everything possible so that partners may also discuss how we can we come to grips with our common history and we want to nurture the relationship with our Turkish neighbours and also with our, those citizens that are part of our country and that are of Turkish origin. And part of a democratic culture obviously is also that you don’t always agree that you sometimes disagree on certain issues.

Q:  [Through interpretation] Madam Chancellor, Jenny Hill from the BBC. A short question in English. Leaders have now publicly signalled that if Britain decides to leave the EU they’ll be in no hurry to help it renegotiate its relationship, it’s rights within Europe, for example access to the single market. What in your view are the implications of a Brexit for Britain and for Europe? And if Britain decides to leave what will you do to stop other countries following suit?

ANGELA MERKEL:  [through interpretation] Well first of all obviously it is up to the citizens of the United Kingdom themselves how they wish to vote on the upcoming referendum. I’ve said repeatedly before that I personally would hope and wish for the United Kingdom to stay part and parcel of the European Union. Why do you I wish for that? Well because we work well together with the European, with the United Kingdom, particularly when we talk about perhaps new rules for the European Union we have to develop those together with the United Kingdom and whenever we negotiate that you can much better have an influence on the debate when you sit at the bargaining table and you can put, give input to those negotiations and the result will then invariably be better when you have that rather than being outside of the room. And there is something else secondly that makes us so strong in the European Union namely the single market. On the single market the cooperation between us and the UK and that goes for all of my predecessors in this office has always been very good and the single market has to be continued to develop. For example in the digital era.  In my experience over the past few years you will never get a really good result in negotiations, particularly on very important issues, when you’re not in the room and giving input to the discussion as it were. With somebody who comes from outside, I mean we’ve had a lot of discussions, a lot of debates, a lot of negotiations also with other countries and we will never be able to reach the same good results, the same quality of results and the same quality of a compromise if not each and every one is in on this and if you don’t share also the cost of the single market. Now these negotiations are very important for the United Kingdome and for all of us and I think not one individual country on its own is able to bring about good results, it would be not only in our interests but it could also be in the interest of Britain when it can bring its whole political weight to the negotiating table as part and parcel of the European Union and as I see it will be a qualitative step forward for the people in Britain as it will be for us in the European Union. But obviously I don’t want to give rise to any misunderstandings, the people in Britain are the ones who have a say here, who are the ones to decide. We think that this is something if they stay with us that would bring British interests much better to bear than any other process.

Q:  [Through interpretation] Christina Dunst (sp?) from the German Press Agency. Secretary General what sort of problems do you see for military alliance if you look at the fact that the NATO partners Germany and Turkey have a relationship right now that is fraught with certain problems? And also on the Armenia vote the Turkish President spoke of a real and I think the Prime Minister spoke of a test of confidence.  And Madam Chancellor - yesterday the compromise particularly on renewables and electricity generated by renewables, is that a true compromise between you and Mr Seehofer and do you think there’s going to be a compromise on the inheritance tax as well?

JENS STOLTENBERG:  Turkey is the NATO ally most affected by the turmoil, the violence, the killing in its neighbouring countries, Iraq and Syria and there are close to 3 million refugees in Turkey and they host them and they are in many ways directly affected by the crisis we see in the south, Iraq and Syria. They have also suffered several terrorist attacks and there has been several shellings, attacks coming from Syria against civilians in Turkey. So I think we have to understand that Turkey has been under pressure and that Turkey plays a key role in our joint efforts to fight ISIL because we use air bases, infrastructure in Turkey when the U.S. led coalition and many NATO allies contribute in the efforts to degrade and destroy ISIL both in Iraq and Syria. At the same time NATO is based on some core values, on democracy, on individual liberty, on the rule of law and I attach personally a very strong importance to those values and that’s something I very often express and those values are important for the unity and the strength of our alliance. When it comes to Armenia I would like to remind you on the following and that is that Turkey is a NATO ally, Armenia is a valued partner of NATO. Meaning that the vote which has taken place in the German Parliament today is not an issue where NATO is in any way involved. I hope strongly that we can see a normalization of the relationship between Turkey and Armenia as early as possible and I think that it is important that we all support efforts to try to reduce tensions and avoid any kind of escalation of conflicts and problems between nations.

ANGELA MERKEL:  [through interpretation] Well you know that in the coalition our goal is to see to it that the issues that are on the agenda are solved together and actually coming to an agreement on the Renewable Energy Act is something that is most important because we have to decide this in the cabinet, we have to bring this before the Bundestag and then it has to be agreed on by the European Union because the current act on renewables will expire by the end of this year and we need clarity for all of those who wish to invest in this particular branch of industry. Yesterday in the Coalition Committee we made a further important step forward as regards for example the question of an integration and support for inclusion and there we’re going to launch an initiative which sees to it that handicapped people no longer have to ask for alms as it were but it is being respected and rewarded what they have been actually able to do despite their handicaps in their professional life. On inheritance tax it was clear that we would not come to an agreement but these talks are being continued, it’s a complicated and complex procedure and as, just as on the disparity of wages between men and women and so it’s an ongoing process and here the coalition partners are in agreement. Thank you.