Joint press conference
with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and the Prime Minister of the Netherlands, Mark Rutte
Thank you so much. Thank you Prime Minister Mark Rutte.
It is great to be back here in The Hague and to meet with you and to discuss how we prepare for the NATO Summit in Warsaw in July.
And The Netherlands is really a committed NATO Ally.
You contribute in so many different ways to our collective defence here in Europe, but also to projecting stability to our neighbourhood. Because if our neighbourhood is stable, we are more secure.
And I thank you for your many contributions to so many different parts of the efforts of the NATO Alliance.
We discussed the preparations for the NATO Summit in Warsaw in July. And that will be a landmark Summit because NATO has to respond to a more challenging security environment, both with a more assertive Russia in the east but also with all the turmoil and instability in the south.
And I welcome the strong determination in the Alliance to adapt our collective defence and deterrence posture to a more demanding security environment in Europe.
We are going to increase our forward presence in the eastern part of the Alliance. We have agreed that the forward presence will be an multinational presence.
And I also welcome that we have been able to increase our readiness of our forces. We have established a new High Readiness Joint Task Force and as I said the Netherlands is really contributing to this enhanced readiness of our NATO forces.
We are also addressing the challenges we see to the south. And we have to further develop the way we are projecting stability to our neighbourhood when we meet at the Summit in Warsaw. This is about enabling local forces to fight terrorism themselves, to stabilise their own countries, and we can help them, train them, build local capacity so that they are able to stabilise their own countries.
I think it’s also important that NATO has been able to be part of the international efforts to cut the lines of illegal migration over the Aegean Sea. And again, the Netherlands is contributing, you have a ship in the Aegean and we have seen a significant reduction in the numbers of crossings partly because of the NATO presence but also of course because of the agreement with the European Union and Turkey.
So I welcome this broadening international effort to cope with the migrant and refugee crisis and the Netherlands being part of that.
We are also stepping up our cooperation with the European Union and we have seen that we have been able to make progress in the last months. We have reached an agreement on an arrangement on cyber with the EU and we were also able to agree on how to share information, NATO and the EU, connected to our activities in the Aegean Sea. And this has created a new momentum and I look forward to the Summit because the aim is to be able to lift the EU-NATO cooperation to a new level at the Summit.
A precondition for us being able to respond to a more demanding security environment both with enhanced collective defence and increased capabilities to project stability to our neighbourhood is that we have to invest more in our defence.
And I commend you for your efforts in increasing the Dutch defence spending. This is important because it’s part of a broader NATO effort to make god on the pledge we made two years ago in Wales. And now it is important that we deliver. And I welcome your efforts. And we all know that this is a first step towards increased investments in our collective defence and our shared security. And I’m looking forward to working together with you on this and other issues as we approach the Warsaw Summit.
MODERATOR: Thank you. First question for Het Nieuwsblad.
Q: Mr. Stoltenberg you mentioned it that other landmark summit in Wales where the member states pledged to bring back their defence budgets towards the 2 % NATO norm. So in that respect if you look at the defence spendings in the Netherlands the budget stuck at 1.13 %, do you think the Netherlands is doing enough?
JENS STOLTENBERG (NATO Secretary General): It is important to remember what we decided in Wales at our summit in 2014. We decided to do actually three things. The first step was to stop the cuts. The second step was to have a real increase in defence spending and the third step was to aim at 2 % within a decade. So no one expects all NATO allies to reach 2 % this year or next year. What we expect is that NATO allies are able to stop the cuts and then gradually increase defence spending in real terms and then aim at 2 %. And the Netherlands has been able to stop the cuts, the Netherlands has been able to start with a real increase in defence spending and then we all know that we have a long way to go to reach the 2 % and I expect that the Netherlands will continue to increase and also increase as percentage of GDP. But I think that where we now are in 2016, which is the second year after we made the pledge, to see that the Netherlands but also several other NATO allies have been able to stop the cuts and then start to increase is at least a good beginning but then I expect even more in the years to come.
MODERATOR: Second question, NOS.
Q: Yeah Mr. Jens Stoltenberg and maybe Mr. Mark Rutte you can comment as well. As you know next year we have elections in Holland, still lots of parties hesitate to invest on a bigger scale in our defence. What do you think of that? And for you Mark Rutte this government increased spending on defence, do you think future governments should continue?
JENS STOLTENBERG: So first of all I understand that it’s hard in a way to increase defence spending because all politicians and most people I meet they would prefer to spend money on health, on education, on infrastructure and many other areas. But we need to invest in our defence because defence is a pre-condition for the safety, the security and it is the only way to secure peace. We need strong defence not because we want to fight a war but we need strong defence because we want to prevent the war. So we are investing in our defence not to provoke a conflict but to prevent a conflict. And then I would also like to underline that what we have seen is that after the end of the Cold War there was a decline in defence spending over a long period of time, over many years. And I have to admit that when I was Minister of Finance in Norway I was actually responsible for cutting defence spending and that was in the 1990s. But then tensions went down and I think it’s possible to decrease defence spending when tensions are going down as long as you’re able to increase defence spending when tensions are going up. And tensions are going up, we are living in a more dangerous world, we see a more assertive Russia to the east and we see all the turmoil and the violence to the south. So then as Prime Minister I also started to increase defence spending, so the thing is that it’s okay to reduce when tensions are going down as long as we’re able to increase defence spending when tensions are going up and that’s what I expect NATO allies to do.
MARK RUTTE (Netherlands Prime Minister): Yes and on, I completely agree. Since 2015 spending on defence has been increased again, I do believe that over the next years we need to find room to go further. I of course cannot go into the details of the budget for 2017, that’s still being debated in cabinet but as you know and we also pledged it in parliament, if you want to take a multi-year approach which over the years will increase defence spending further based on the [inaudible] of a Member of Parliament. Then secondly it is not just a question of money, I do believe that there’s a dual track approach, one more money yes absolutely but secondly also making sure that the money is spent as efficiently as we can. And in that sense smart cooperation is key, also here the Wales Summit was crucial. And then we discussed of course pooling resources, how we can modernize our defence capabilities and therefore be better equipped also in the light of todays but also tomorrow’s threats.
MODERATOR: Final question, BNR
Q: Mr. Stoltenberg, the RAND Corporation and former Secretary General de Hoop Scheffer tell us it’s not easy to defend NATO territory at the moment when Russia tries to intervene, within 60 hours the Russians can be in the cities of Poland and the three Baltic states. First question, do you agree? Second question, is NATO ready to station permanently heavy weaponry in those countries?
JENS STOLTENBERG: NATO is able and ready to defend all allies against any threats and that’s also the reason why we are now adapting our military posture. We have already implemented the biggest reinforcement to our collective defence since the end of the Cold War as a response to a more assertive Russia and the turmoil we see in the south with ISIL, Iraq, Syria, North Africa. And I think it is important to remember that what we have done now is a series of different decisions and we have implemented those decisions. One thing is to increase the readiness of our forces; we have tripled the size of the NATO Response Force. Then as part of that we have established a new very high readiness joint task force, Netherlands is part of that. We have established eight small headquarters in the eastern allied countries, they are important for planning, they are important for creating the, a good relationship between national forces and multi-national NATO forces and they will also play a key role when it comes to reinforcements, if needed. Then we will decide to increase our presence in the eastern part of the alliance. Our military planners have put forward a proposal with several battalions in different eastern allied countries and I expect the summit to make decisions on exactly how we’re going to follow up that recommendation.
Q: Will the Netherlands be prepared to contribute to that force actually?
MARK RUTTE: Well we are currently discussing how we can best contribute to all the new initiatives. I have no announcements to make now but we will over the coming weeks take decisions on that.
MODERATOR: Okay thank you. Thank you for being here and have a great afternoon.