Press conference by the NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the launch of his Annual Report for 2016

  • 13 Mar. 2017 -
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  • Last updated: 13 Mar. 2017 17:35

(As delivered)

Good afternoon. Today I will launch my Annual Report and this Annual Report contains a lot of facts and figures about NATO. I thinks it’s important as a reference document but it’s also a way for NATO to show transparency because as you know transparency is important for the Alliance, it’s important to be able to tell the close to 1 billion people we protect what we are doing and this is covered in this Annual Report.
At no time since the end of the Cold War NATO has faced greater challenges to our security than it has today. The report shows how much NATO is doing to adapt to this new security environment, acting with determination, to strengthen our collective defence and to project stability beyond our borders.
In 2014 and 2015, we began to implement the largest reinforcement of our collective defence in a generation, and in 2016, we took further steps to keep our almost one billion citizens safe.

Here, for example, you can see our joint effort to strengthen our collective defence in the north-east of the Alliance. These are the four multinational battlegroups we agreed to deploy, to Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia and Poland. They are arriving as I speak.
At least 17 different Allied countries will contribute troops to these four battlegroups and we are on track to have all four battlegroups in place by June. 
At the same time, we have maintained our political dialogue with Russia. We held three meetings of the NATO-Russia Council last year, and I welcome that both NATO and Russia recently took part in talks hosted by Finland on improving air safety in the Baltic Sea region. In keeping with our international commitments, we invited observers to attend ten NATO exercises. As far afield as Norway, the UK and Greece.
NATO is adapting to address other challenges as well. Cyber attacks are a growing threat and NATO is making good progress on cyber defence. In 2016, NATO experts dealt with an average of 500 cyber incidents per month, a 60% increase on the previous year.  We have recognised cyber as an operational domain, alongside land, sea and air, and Allies have committed to improve their national cyber defences. 
In 2016, our Aegis Ashore missile defence site in Romania became operational, round the clock.
A major boost to our ability to defend against missile attacks from outside the Euro-Atlantic area.
Security is not just about what we do at home, but also what we do beyond our borders. So we have agreed to do more to project stability in our neighbourhood, including by training local forces.

As you can see from this slide, NATO is projecting stability in many different ways and contributing to the fight against terrorism. It’s a fight we have been in for over 15 years. We have 13,000 troops deployed in Afghanistan as part of our mission to train Afghan forces.  From 39 NATO member and partner countries. They are training Afghan forces to help secure their country and deny safe haven to international terrorists. We have also started training Iraqi forces. Because training local forces is one of the best tools we have.
Likewise, we have sent mobile training teams to Egypt, Jordan, Mauritania, Morocco and Tunisia. NATO AWACS planes are supporting the Global Coalition to Counter-ISIL.  Our AWACS planes are also providing assurance to Turkey, which is on the front line of our fight against terrorism and NATO continues to augment Turkey’s air defences.
To bolster our efforts in the Middle East and North Africa we have recently decided to establish a Hub for the South in our command in Naples. We have opened the NATO-ICI regional centre in Kuwait, to improve cooperation with our partners in the Gulf.
We have launched Sea Guardian, a new maritime security operation in the Mediterranean, building on the success of our mission to cut the lines of illegal migration in the Aegean Sea, and to deepen our understanding of the threats we face, we have created a new Intelligence Division here at NATO HQ.
These are all essential steps, but we need to do more. To expand our efforts to make our neighbourhood more stable and I expect that to be an important focus when NATO leaders meet here in Brussels in May.
NATO has helped to keep the peace in the Western Balkans for over 20 years. We will continue to be a guarantor of peace and stability in the region. Because it is important for our own security.
And we will continue to support efforts for the Euro-Atlantic integration of the Western Balkans. Because that is key to stability and prosperity. In the region and beyond.
In 2016, we opened the door to Montenegro to join our Alliance and 25 Allies have already ratified the accession protocol, paving the way for Montenegro to become NATO’s 29th member.


Last year we also took our partnership with the European Union to a new level. We agreed on 42 different measures to improve cooperation. Including on countering hybrid threats, cyber defence and maritime security. Working more closely with the EU is important for many different reasons. It will strengthen Europe’s security and reinforce the transatlantic bond. All our efforts must be underpinned by adequate resources and fair burden-sharing.
At the Warsaw Summit last year we reaffirmed our pledge to invest more in defence, and to invest better, to stop the cuts, to move towards spending 2% of GDP on defence within a decade and to invest 20% of that defence spending in major equipment.

This shows that we have turned a corner. In 2015, defence spending cuts among European Allies stopped. And 15 Allies increased their defence spending in real terms in 2015. In 2016, our figures show that 23 Allies increased their defence expenditure in real terms. By 3.8 %. Adding up to ten billion US dollars. So, there has been progress. But the job is far from done. We still do not have fair burden-sharing within our Alliance – as you can see in the Annual report. Today, we publish in the Annual Report updated figures for individual NATO Allies. In 2016, five Allies spent 2% or more of GDP on defence. It is realistic that all Allies should reach this goal. All Allies have agreed to it – at the highest level. It can be done.

In fact, as you can see, European Allies together spent 2% of GDP on defence as recently as the year 2000. So meaning that after the Cold War we saw a decline in defence spending but we actually spent 2% of GDP on defence in Europe as late as in the year 2000, meaning that it’s possible to do it again, when we have decided to again start increasing defence spending in Europe and across Canada. And I am also encouraged that Romania plans to reach 2% this year. And both Latvia and Lithuania expect to do the same in 2018.
Of course, burden sharing is not just about spending more. It’s also about spending better, on skilled troops and high-end capabilities. Which is why the 20% target is so important.
The number of Allies reaching 20% or more on their defence budget on major equipment has increased to ten. So we must redouble our efforts and that will be another key focus at the upcoming meeting of NATO leaders in May in Brussels.


NATO is a transatlantic alliance of 28 – soon to be 29 – democracies. Our strength lies in our shared values. Our common goal is to preserve peace and security. In a dangerous world, NATO is as essential as ever. At this pivotal time, the Alliance is strong, because we continue to adapt.
And, with that, I am ready to take your questions.

OANA LUNGESCU (NATO Spokesperson):  Okay we’ll start with Suddeutsche,  third row, thanks.

Q:  Daniel Brössler, Suddeutsche zeitung. Secretary General are you worried if you look at the conflict between two NATO members, Turkey and the Netherlands right now, attacks coming from Turkey calling, calling the Netherlands fascist, similar attacks towards Germany. Is that, you would say the way Allies should treat each other or is that weakening the alliance? And there have been, a second question if I may, there have been discussions in Germany if as a reaction to that Bundeswehr soldiers should be called back from Turkey, is that something that is worrying you? Thank you.

JENS STOLTENBERG (NATO Secretary General):  Robust debate is at the heart of our democracy but so is also mutual respect. And therefore I will encourage all Allies to show mutual respect, to be calm and have a measured approach, to contribute to de-escalate the tensions and diffuse tensions and de-escalate the situation. And I think it’s important that we now focus on everything that unites us, the common challenges, the threats and how NATO is adapting and that we not focus on issues that occasionally divide us. I think it is important that we have dialogue and I think it is important also to understand that we supported each other. So for instance NATO presence in Turkey is good for Turkey but is also good for Europe and the rest of the Alliance. We work with them to address the threats and the challenges, the violence, the turmoil we see in Syria and Iraq, that is of course important for Turkey that NATO is present there with our capabilities, our forces, our AWACS planes, we are augmenting the air defences of Turkey, but it’s also an important part of what NATO does when it comes to helping and supporting the global coalition fighting ISIL. So this is in our interest that we work together to address common challenges and threats and that’s exactly what we should do more of together with Turkey in fighting ISIL.

OANA LUNGESCU:  Okay. Itar-Tass, back there.

Q:   Mr. Secretary General, Denis Dubrovin, TASS News Agency. According to your report what’s the general evaluation of the situation in the world? Is the security situation improving or degenerating? And which, in which areas are you would say the situation is the most grave? Thank you.

JENS STOLTENBERG:  So what we have seen over the last couple of years is increased tensions and a new security environment surrounding NATO. We have seen more turmoil, more violence to the south with the DAESH ISIL taking control over big parts of Syria and Iraq, they are now on the defensive, they are losing ground but still they are absolutely present and we need to continue to support the global coalition fighting ISIL. At the same time we have seen a more assertive Russia, annexing Crimea, illegally annexing Crimea and destabilizing Eastern Ukraine. And all of this is what NATO is responding to but for me it’s very hard to compare different threats and challenges. ISIL is a terrorist organization, a brutal organization responsible for terrorist attacks and a brutality we have hardly seen before. Russia is a neighbour, Russia is there to stay and we are striving for a more constructive relationship with Russia and therefore I also welcome the fact that we have been able to reactivate the political dialogue with Russia in 2016 with three meetings of the NATO Russia Council. So my message is that NATO is strong because we are able to adapt. NATO is strong because when the world is changing NATO is changing.


Q:   Thank you. Secretary General recently President of European Commission Mr. Jean-Claude Juncker put at the table five different scenarios for European Union and for now it looks like the European Union of different speed countries are most preferably within 28 of you. From other helms they also talking about necessity to increase spending on the defence in the EU. How do you think all these plans can influence NATO also particularly in the part when NATO has to increase money on its own defence? Don’t you think that well, Allies, European Allies will increase spending in the EU, they don’t spend in NATO and so the ultimatum of Mr. Trump at the end of this year will be a reality? Thank you.

JENS STOLTENBERG:  I think it’s very important to understand that there is no contradiction between stronger NATO and stronger European defence. Actually it goes together because 22 of the members of the European Union are at the same time members of the NATO Alliance and more than 90 % of the people living in the European Union, they live in NATO countries. So stronger European defence means at the same time stronger NATO. And NATO has called for more defence spending in Europe in many years, we have called for the development of new capabilities, more training, more exercises but also to address some of the obvious challenges we have in Europe with a very fragmented defence industry which makes the development of capabilities more costly in Europe than for instance in the United States. So I welcome efforts to strengthen defence cooperation within the European Union because I believe that will strengthen the defences of Europe and also strengthen NATO. The only thing which is important is that the European Union does do not duplicate what NATO does and that is it complimentary. And therefore I welcome the very clear message from many European leaders that this is not about a European army, this is not about creating new command structures which are parallel or overlapping NATO command structures and this is not about the European Union being responsible for collective defence in Europe. Because collective defence in Europe is NATO’s main responsibility and especially after Brexit I think it’s obvious that we need NATO and the European Union working together, not competing, because 80 % of NATO’s defence expenditure will be non EU and the three of four battalions or battle groups we have in the east will be led by non EU countries, the UK, Canada and United States. So as long as this is not about a competition, that we work in complementarity and that’s the clear goal from the European Union, that’s something I welcome, then I think we should only welcome efforts to strengthen European Defence. And if for instance Germany increased defence spending that will be good for Europe, the European Union and NATO.

OANA LUNGESCU:  Okay. Wall Street Journal.

Q:    Julian Barnes, Wall Street Journal. President Trump has said in addition to more defence spending he wants more of a focus on counter terrorism from NATO. You and other allied officials have talked about NATO’s contribution being in building partnership capacity. This report outlines a lot of different areas where you’re doing training missions, what is the way forward? Is it doing more training missions or is it doing training missions more quickly or is it doing them in a different way to make them more effective? What is your thinking of how you’re going to address this demand that NATO adapt and evolve?

JENS STOLTENBERG:  It may be all three of them and we have an open mind to how NATO can step up its efforts to fight terrorism. I think the important thing is to know or to understand is that we have to do it in different ways, in different regions and in different parts of the world, and we need tailor made approaches to the different countries we are working with. We have one approach in Afghanistan and we must not forget that Afghanistan is about fighting terrorism. The reason why we went into Afghanistan was a direct response to a terrorist attack on the United States and the main reason why we still are in Afghanistan is to prevent Afghanistan from becoming a safe haven for international terrorists. We have 13,000 troops there and if there’s any lesson learned from Afghanistan it’s that we should have started earlier to train local forces, to build local capacity. So that’s what we do in Afghanistan now, the Afghans are responsible for security in their own country themselves, we train, help and assist them. We can’t not copy that but we can get some inspiration from them, when we for instance work in Iraq and again I think it’s extremely important that we train local forces, when Mosul is liberated we need some local forces to keep the territory, to stabilize the region and as long as we don’t plan to deploy our own forces and that’s not on the agenda at all, then we need local forces. We also have this concept of deployable mobile teams. So we have deployed mobile training teams from NATO to different countries in the region and we will continue to do so. We are, we have established a hub in the south which can coordinate more activities and of course we can also do more when it comes to just helping to build defence institutions. Because it’s not sufficient to train troops if you don’t have defence structures, institutions, that can make sure that those troops are led, coordinated in a good way. That’s exactly what we are for instance now starting to address in Libya. So we have a wide range of opportunity or possibilities, NATO is already doing a lot and we describe all the different activities in the Annual Report but I can foresee that we can actually scale up some of the activities we have and we can also of course do different kinds of activities in addition.

OANA LUNGESCU:  Egyptian TV, second row.

Q:   I’m here. Thank you very much I’m (inaudible) from the Egyptian Television. Secretary General you, NATO did recognize the Belgium Embassy to be the link between NATO and Egypt, and Egypt, will be present was a high level of diplomatic NATO soon, how will this change cooperation between NATO and Egypt? And is there any talk between NATO and Egypt to work together in Libya? Thank you very much.

JENS STOLTENBERG:  I welcome very much that Egypt is establishing a mission to NATO and will appoint an ambassador to NATO. That will strengthen the cooperation, the partnership between NATO and Egypt. I recently met with the Egyptian Foreign Minister, we had a good and constructive meeting. NATO is working with Egypt in different ways, we have for instance deployed our mobile training team to Egypt, we are working with Egypt to increase interoperability and, and of course when I met with the Foreign Minister we also discussed the situation in Libya. And of course Egypt being so close, a key nation, we, I, expressed from the NATO side that we are ready to help build structures, defence institutions in Libya, but we also strongly support a UN led effort to try to find a negotiated political solution. So the political dialogue is an important part of the partnership and the political dialogue will be strengthened by the new Egyptian diplomatic mission to NATO.

OANA LUNGESCU:  Financial Times.

Q:   Hi, Arthur Beesley here. In your assessment, Secretary General, are efforts by Germany to increase defence spending, which are underway, are those efforts sufficient at this time? Thank you.

JENS STOLTENBERG:  The important thing is that Germany has turned a corner. Because after years of decline in defence spending they have now stopped the cuts in defence spending and actually started to increase. And if you, afterwards you will have the Annual Report, I think its table three, then you will see the real change in defence spending for all individual allies and Germany has an increase in 2016. I of course expect Germany as all other Allies to continue to keep up the momentum and to continue to invest more in defence and of course I expect that from all allies but Germany being the biggest economy in Europe it really matters what Germany does. And therefore I welcome the very clear messages from Chancellor Merkel and from other German leaders that they will now start to invest more in our defence. This is not just about, you know a call from United States and from President Trump, this is also about that it is a decision made by 28 Allies together, it is in Europe’s own interest to invest more in defence and I welcome the fact that Germany has started. Germany as many other Allies has a long way to go but at least after years of decline we have now seen that they are moving in the right direction and this has been my main issue when I met different political leaders in different NATO capitals since I became Secretary General in 2014 and of course I spoke with Chancellor Merkel recently and that was one of the issues we discussed, how can we make sure that we continue to invest more in defence.

OANA LUNGESCU:  ARD, third row.

Q:   Kai Küstner her, German Radio. Once more back to Turkey. The Human Rights Watchdog Council of Europe has sharply criticised Turkey for its plans to establish a presidential rule in the country. Since NATO is also based on democratic values does that pose a problem for the Alliance? And can Turkey actually stay a member of NATO in case the presidential rule is established?

JENS STOLTENBERG:  Well that’s exactly what they are now discussing in Turkey and there is a campaign going on, some are in favour and some are against, but that is going to be decided by referendum in Turkey. And of course I respect the outcome of that referendum and it’s up to each and every ally to discuss, to decide through democratic processes what kind of presidential or parliamentary rule they would like to have as long as this is done in a democratic way.

OANA LUNGESCU:  Latvian Radio.

Q:   [Inaudible], Radio Latvia. Secretary General do you have more information about military training, Zapad 2017, which Russia will start in autumn and very close to the Baltic borders, are you in touch with Russian authorities? And it’s supposed to start quite soon after NATO battle groups will be deployed in the Baltics. Thank you.

JENS STOLTENBERG:  First of all I think it’s important to remember that every nation has the right to exercise its own troops and forces. That is also the case for Russia. NATO conducts exercises, Russia conducts exercises and that’s part of our obligations when we have an armed force or armed forces. The important thing is that exercises are conducted in a way which does not increase tensions, which does not lead to misunderstanding and which is fully in compliance with our international obligations. For instance in compliance with the Vienna Document where there are requirements related to how exercises are notified and international observation of exercises. And I would welcome that any invitation from Russia to observe ZAPAD 2017 and that I also expect Russia to fully adhere to their international commitments under the Vienna Document because that’s the best way to keep tensions down and to avoid any misunderstand. I will also add that one of the issues we have discussed in the NATO Russia Council is, we discussed at the last meeting before Christmas, no in January, no, when was the last meeting?

OANA LUNGESCU:  Last year.

JENS STOLTENBERG:  Last year, in December, we discussed how we can strengthen the NATO Russia Council as a forum for briefings, reciprocal briefings on exercises. And then of course I hope that Russia will be willing to brief on ZAPAD.

OANA LUNGESCU:  Okay. NPR, Deutsche Welle, in the middle.

Q:   Thank you Mr. Secretary General. Terri Schultz. Back to Turkey. Have you had any conversations with either the Dutch Government or the Turkish Government about the dispute about your call for, besides publicly here, about your call for calm and de-escalation? And given the fact that the Dutch flag was taken down on the consulate in Istanbul over the weekend and a Turkish flag raised, have you taken any steps or sought any reassurances that, NATO bases for example, that the unrest could rise to a level where they could actually threaten the security of NATO installations there? Thanks.

JENS STOLTENBERG:  So over the weekend I have been in contact with the Turkish and Dutch Government, I think I should not go into the details of those conversations but of course my message has been the same. That debate, discussion, robust debate is part of our democracy but at the same time mutual respect is important and that calm and de-escalation is important now to diffuse the tensions. And that has been my message because I really believe that we should be focused on the threats and the challenges we see from outside the alliance and everything that unites us instead of focusing on issues that divides us.

Q:   Are you worried at all about the security of the…. [Inaudible – no microphone].

JENS STOLTENBERG:  I will not go into any specifics but I will just, because this is a bilateral issue between NATO allies, but what I can say is that I call, urge all allies to act in a measured and calm way to reduce tensions.

OANA LUNGESCU:  Europa Presse.

Q:   Thank you, Ana Pisonero from the Spanish News Agency Europa Presse. I’m sorry I have to ask on Spain because it’s still one of the biggest countries and we’ve gone down now to the second lowest, well the second lowest country dedicating most GDP, estimations from July from NATO were actually we would be the third but we’re actually, we seem to be getting worse. So are you worried, you know that Spain can compromise this, this efforts on sharing better the burden because of U.S’s clear call on this? Thank you.

JENS STOLTENBERG:  Spain contributes to NATO in many different ways. I have seen Spanish soldiers doing the Trident Juncture Exercise we had last year I think it was. Then Spain is for instance one of the countries that are contributing to the assurance measures in Turkey, they are, they have deployed a patriot battery to Turkey and I thank Spain for that. Turkey is one of the nations which are responsible for leading one of the Spearhead Brigades we have established and Spain is contributing in many different ways to our collective security and to projecting stability to our neighbourhood. Having said that of course Spain as many other Allies invests too little in defence and that’s exactly why we decided in 2014 to stop the cuts, gradually increase and to move towards spending 2 % of GDP on defence. And I expect that Spain will deliver on that. I know that it’s difficult, I have been in national governments myself and I know it’s always hard to find money for defence because all politicians will prefer to spend on education, on health, on infrastructure and of course almost all Allies decreased defence spending after the end of the Cold War when tensions went down. But my message is that if we are or when we are reducing defence spending in times with reduced tensions we have to be able to increase defence spending when tensions are going up and now tensions have gone up and therefore we have to invest more in defence.

OANA LUNGESCU:  Kabul Times, second row.

Q:   Thank you Secretary. You talked about Afghanistan and also mentioned that since 15 years NATO is in Afghanistan, that’s true but as an Afghan and a lot of Afghan believe NATO is not succeed in Afghanistan and always the same policy like train, advice and assistance. So is there any possibility to change this policy or be a little bit more strong to again sending soldier in Afghanistan or more paying attention for the equipment for the Afghan soldiers? And also as you know there is really very different and difficult situation in Afghanistan and also tension between Afghanistan and Pakistan since months and weeks and months. What’s, as Afghanistan as a part in the NATO, so what’s your advice for this country and how do you think for the future of Afghanistan? Thank you.

JENS STOLTENBERG:  I totally agree that there are many challenges in Afghanistan and there is still violence and the Taliban is still a real threat and we have many different terrorist groups that operate in Afghanistan. So I’m aware of the challenges and the difficulties in Afghanistan, having said that I also would like to underline that we have achieved a lot together. When NATO troops arrived almost 15 years ago we hardly had a functioning state and there was hardly any, or should I say any real national security force in Afghanistan. Then we have helped to build a Afghan National Security Force consisting of 350,000 troops military and police, and they are now able to have the responsibility for the security in their own country themselves. And that, but that’s at least something compared to the situation before where Afghanistan was totally dependent on troops from other countries being responsible for security in Afghanistan. So again I’m not saying that it’s easy, I am aware that there are high casualty numbers and there are terrorist attacks and there are many challenges but compared to a time where NATO had more than a hundred thousand troops conducting big combat operations in Afghanistan now NATO has 13,000 troops and the Afghans are responsible for security in their own country. And in the long run I’m absolutely confident that the only way that we can stabilize Afghanistan is that the Afghans take responsibility for their own future themselves. In the long run they cannot be dependent on NATO sending tens of thousands of combat troops into combat operations fighting in Afghanistan. So yes I understand this is difficult but I think the transformation from NATO doing big combat operations to handing over responsibility for security in Afghanistan to the Afghans themselves has been a significant achievement that we have made together with the Afghan troops. We will continue to train them and I’m also encouraged by how Afghanistan is developing new capabilities like for instance air forces and how they are including also women in their armed forces. I met Afghan pilots being trained by NATO trainers, that’s great to see. And then I want to also add that we will be, we are there to train, help, assist but we are also there with money, we are continuing to fund the Afghan National Army, we have committed for three, four more years until 2020 and we have a political dialogue and part of that is also of course to support all efforts to try to find a negotiated political solution and part of that is of course to involve neighbours like Pakistan and good neighbour relations are of great importance to find a lasting peaceful solution to the conflict in Afghanistan.

OANA LUNGESCU:  Le Soir, third row.

Q:   Thank you, Philippe Regnier newspaper Le Soir. You mentioned the fact that Montenegro’s accession to NATO will bring more stability in the region but don’t you fear that at the same time Russia will try to, to disrupt this process? Thank you.

JENS STOLTENBERG:  So we have seen reports from Montenegro addressing those concerns and also we have seen the failed coup attempt last fall and, and the fact that Russian citizens were involved in that attempt. But for me this is not an argument against Montenegro joining NATO, for me this is an argument in favour because Montenegro has through democratic processes made a decision, they want to join NATO, 28 Allies have signed the accession protocol and almost all of them have also ratified it in the parliament and it is a sovereign right of every nation through democratic processes to decide which path it wants to choose including what kind of security arrangements it wants to be a part of. So any attempt to intervene or ,sorry any attempt to interfere, in such a process is undermining the sovereign right of a sovereign nation to make its own decisions and of course Montenegro has that right and I support it.

OANA LUNGESCU:  Lady over there.

Q:   Thank you. Maria [Inaudible], from Ethnos Newspaper Greece. Would you elaborate more about the NATO’s mission in Aegean Sea and two, is Turkey again seeking for an end to this operations? Thank you.

JENS STOLTENBERG:  NATO’s presence in the Aegean Sea has been a success and has been important for different reasons. Partly we have been key in helping Frontex, the Greek and Turkish Coast Guard, to address the illegal flow and the criminal networks facilitating the illegal migration through the or over the Aegean Sea. NATO ships have been very often the first spotters of boats and activities, we have shared that information with local coast guards and they have then taken action. And of course NATO has also been important because it brings together two NATO Allies, Turkey and Greece, a non EU member Turkey working with the European Union Frontex in the Aegean. So when I, I visited for instance the German flagship Bonn, on that flagship we had a of course a German admiral but we also had Turkish liaison officer and a Greek liaison officers, officer, just underlining that NATO brings together Turkey and Greece, EU and NATO in the region. And also the fact that we have been able to work so closely with the European Union I think adds to the importance of this mission. Having said all this of course this is not an open, this will have an end, so we will be there as long as there is support for it in NATO and as long as we deem it as something that adds value but at some stage I also expect that our activity in the Aegean will end.

OANA LUNGESCU:  Last question,  Agence France Presse.

Q:   Thank you Secretary General. What, what can we expect for the next meetings, there is a meeting in May, you haven’t given a date so I guess it’s not completely clear yet. What about a ministerial meeting of foreign ministers? Is the situation between Turkey and some of the European countries also maybe delaying that meeting was maybe foreseen somewhere before May? Can you give us some guidance on how, what we can expect?

JENS STOLTENBERG:  We will have a meeting of heads of states and government in Brussels in the end of May. The meeting will take place in connection with the G7 meeting in Italy so it will most likely be just before or just after but we will soon be able to announce the exact date. And it will not be a full-fledged summit, the plan is to inaugurate the new building, so we will have all the heads of state and government including a new U.S. President and a new French President attending the inauguration and we will have a working session where we will discuss how NATO is adapting to new security challenges. And I expect that burden sharing, defence investments but also how both to spend more but also how to spend better will be an important part of the discussion at the meeting in May but also what more NATO can do to fight terrorism. Then we will also have a Foreign Ministerial Meeting the beginning of April, that will be an important building block or part of the preparations for the meetings of heads of state and government in May and also many NATO Allies and I myself will go to Washington next week, well next week, yeah next week to participate in the counter ISIL coalition meeting. So that will also provide an informal platform for some of us to discuss the preparations for this meeting in May. So we are now preparing for hosting 28 heads of state and government and Montenegro because Montenegro participates in all our meetings even though the accession protocol is not ratified in all 28 parliaments. Host them here in May and inaugurate the building, address burden sharing, defence spending and what more NATO can do to fight terrorism. So I’m looking forward to that meeting.

OANA LUNGESCU:  Thank you very much this concludes this press conference. You will have an opportunity to continue talking to the Secretary General off the record at our annual reception which will be at the end of the corridor but before you do that you can take the annual report, which is totally on the record, to your right as you leave this room. Thank you.