Joint press point
with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and the Chairman of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bakir Izetbegović
First of all let me welcome you to the NATO Headquarters. It’s great to meet you again and Bosnia and Herzegovina is an important partner for the NATO Alliance. And Bosnia and Herzegovina is a candidate for NATO membership and our partnership dates back many years. And your country makes a significant contribution to our common security. Through a clear commitment to regional dialogue and cooperation. And through participation in NATO’s mission in Afghanistan.
I want to take our relationship forward and we want to do that together. NATO is and remains committed to stability in the Western Balkans.
Today we discussed the crucial reforms that Bosnia and Herzegovina is making. And I welcome what has been achieved so far in reforming the defence and security sector. And I count on you to continue on the path of reforms.
Full integration into the Euro-Atlantic family takes time and effort. But it is worth it. Because it leads to greater security and greater prosperity. Activation of the Membership Action Plan remains an important issue. It will be a positive step for your reform agenda. NATO stands ready to activate the Membership Action Plan, once all defence properties have been registered to the state. Bosnia and Herzegovina needs to keep moving forward with this effort.
I welcome the recent guidance by the presidency on your defence review. We would like to see the review completed as soon as possible. Including a plan for modernization of the armed forces. Bosnia and Herzegovina has the necessary tools to move towards NATO membership. We will continue to help you move towards the Alliance. I call upon all leaders of Bosnia and Herzegovina to work constructively for the benefit of all citizens. And to undertake the reforms that are necessary for your country to realise its Euro-Atlantic aspirations.
Let me then also add a few words about the US elections. I congratulate Donald Trump on his election as the next President of the United States. And I look forward to working with him. And it is important that the transatlantic bond remains strong and we face a challenging security environment, hybrid warfare, cyber attacks and the threat of terrorism. US leadership is as important as ever. Our Alliance has brought together America’s closest friends in times of peace and of conflict for almost 70 years. A strong NATO is good for the United States and it is good for Europe. NATO has responded with determination to the new security situation. But we have more work to do. And I look forward to meeting Mr. Trump soon and to welcome him to Brussels for the NATO Summit next year, to discuss the way forward.
So with that, Mr Chairman, I give the floor to you.
Q: Robin Emmott from Reuters here. Secretary General, what does an election victory for Donald, Donald Trump’s election victory, sorry what does that mean for NATO, given that he explicitly set conditions for defending allies basically saying, those who don’t pay up will not be defended, thank you?
JENS STOLTENBERG (NATO Secretary General): NATO’s security guarantee is Treaty commitment and all allies have made solemn commitment, a solemn commitment to defend each other. And this is something which is absolute and it’s unconditioned. The NATO security guarantees are important for Europe, but they are also important for the United States, so a strong NATO is important for Europe, but it’s also important for the United States and we have to remember that the only time that we have invoked Article 5, our Collective Defense clause, is after an attack on the United States, after 9/11 and thousands of NATO soldiers also from Europe, Canada and also partner nations, have been deployed and have contributed to the efforts of the whole Alliance, to fight terrorism in Afghanistan and, and NATO continues to provide support, not only for the efforts of our mission in Afghanistan, but also provide support to the US-led coalition fighting ISIL. We have just decided to provide, for instance, AWACS surveillance planes as a direct support to the coalition fighting ISIL and we train Iraqi officers. That just underlines that NATO is important, both for collective defense in Europe, but also to provide help and pay and play a key role in the fight against international terrorism, and therefore I’m looking forward to work with President-elect Trump; and I look forward to welcoming him to Brussels at our next Summit next year and also to meet him soon, to discuss the way forward and how we can strengthen the Trans-Atlantic bond in challenging times, with a new and more challenging security environment.
MODERATOR: Bosnian TV.
Q: Elliot Busrab (sic) Bosnia State Television. Since anyone will ask you about American election I will stick to Bosnia. So Bosnia membership action plan (MAP) and Italian pre-conditions European Union, recently switched to the more realistic approach to Bosnia. Is it the time for NATO to do the same? I’m not talking about a change in Italian pre-conditions, but changing the way how NATO is considering their efforts from Bosnia-side, thank you. So there’s the question for both of us.
JENS STOLTENBERG: So, NATO remains fully supported of the membership aspiration of Bosnia Herzegovina and we will continue to support Bosnia Herzegovina implementing the necessary reforms and I just discussed with Chairman Izetbegovic how we can step up and increase our support for Bosnia Herzegovina. We have the different partnership programs which are addressing exactly how we can help Bosnia Herzegovina, and we are working on the implementation of the different elements in that plan to make sure that we are delivering as much support as possible in support of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Euro-Atlantic integration. We still, of course, focus on the importance of implementing what is called Tallinn conditions, the registration of defense properties by the State and the Chairman updated me on progress which has been done there and, we will also add the Foreign Ministerial Meeting of NATO in December. Have a report on the Western Balkans including the progress which Bosnia Herzegovina is making on implementing the necessary defense reforms.
BAKIR IZETBEGOVIC (Chairman of the Presidency of Bosnia Herzegovina): Speaking foreign language.
TRANSLATOR: Well it’s exactly the same idea in the parallel that I drew as Mr. Stoltenberg. I drew a comparison between what the EU did, and what NATO has not done so far. So, they changed the sequence of the priorities from those easier ones to the most, to the more, from the more, difficult ones when we (inaudible) order. Progress has been made in Bosnia Herzegovina. So I asked Mr. Stoltenberg to do the same on behalf of NATO, so if you have the, so we have these forces in Bosnia Herzegovina why do we, why should we, put in their hands the mechanisms that can allow them to do that so we have the armed forces in all of the military sites. There is the court decision that this is state-owned property and registration has begun in Federation and (inaudible) and the EU should do a similar approach and send a similar message about prospective of Bosnia Herzegovina West Balkans. So the opponents to these efforts should not play with white players in this chess game.
Q: Trump has articulated a different sort of approach to Russia. a) do you expect NATO to change its tone or make any adjustments to the enhanced forward presence, as the Trump Administration takes effect, and to follow up on your last response Mr. Trump has talked about a larger counter terrorism role for NATO which seems to suggest not just the kinds of training that’s been done in Afghanistan or in Jordan, but a actual bigger role in European counter terrorism. This is not something that’s necessarily popular with other allies. Is there room for NATO to do more than what it’s doing now to fight terrorism?
JENS STOLTENBERG: NATO has already decided to step up its efforts to provide support to the coalition fighting ISIL and we decided to maintain our presence in Afghanistan which is our biggest military operation and it’s and we are in Afghanistan to fight terrorism to prevent Afghanistan becoming a safe haven for international terrorists. Then, of course, we will always assess how we can do more both to stabilize our neighbourhood to fight terrorism but also of course provide the necessary collective defense in Europe, making sure that we provide the necessary deterrents. And that’s the reason why I’m looking forward to meet President-elect Trump, to sit down with him and to discuss the way forward and also to welcoming President-elect Trump to our next Summit here in Brussels because that provides the platform that provides the opportunities to sit down with a new US President and discuss how we can all live up to what is our Treaty commitment, to provide collective defense based on the idea of all for one, one for all and to be able to do that we have to respond and to adapt to a more demanding security environment, including hybrid threats, terrorist threats, cyber-attacks and many other kinds of threats and challenges. So this is something we are working on at NATO, we have made important decisions, we are implementing decisions and I congratulate Donald Trump on his election as President and I’m looking forward to work with him on all these important issues and to discuss the way forward when we meet.
MODERATOR: This concludes this press point. The Secretary General will be back at around 11:30 with the President of Finland. Thank you very much.