by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the start of the Informal meeting of EU Ministers of Defence in Malta
I am looking forward to meeting with EU Defence Ministers and to discuss how we can further strengthen the cooperation between NATO and the European Union. I very much also appreciate this opportunity to visit Valletta, Malta, because I met with the Prime Minister yesterday, Prime Minister Muscat. And this is actually the first-ever visit of a NATO Secretary General to Malta. I appreciate that we are able to work with Malta, fully respecting the neutrality of Malta, as NATO works with many other neutral countries, like Sweden, Finland, Austria, Switzerland. I think it’s important that we also work with Malta.
I am looking forward to discuss NATO-EU cooperation with the EU Defence Ministers. We have made a lot of progress and we continue to make progress. We agreed 42 concrete measures in December last year – on hybrid, cyber, operations, exercises. And we would like to step up and continue that cooperation. The importance of NATO-EU cooperation is something we see just offshore the coast of Malta, because we have the NATO maritime operation, Sea Guardian, providing support to the EU Operation Sophia. Currently there are four ships, NATO ships, three NATO maritime patrol aircraft, and some other assets, providing direct support to Operation Sophia, helping them with conducting their tasks. And we also have NATO’s presence in the Aegean Sea.
And we are also discussing what more we can do in Libya. Last week I spoke with Prime Minister Al-Sarraj; I expressed NATO’s support to his government, to the Government of National Accord, the UN-supported government. And we also discussed how NATO can provide help to build up the defence institutions, build capacity in Libya; and our expert teams will meet in the coming weeks to discuss more details.
Jens Stoltenberg: I welcome strongly European defence as long as it is in complementarity with what NATO does. And it has been clearly conveyed from the European Union that their aim is not to establish a new European army or develop command structures which compete with the NATO command structures, but this is something in complementarity with what NATO does. So, that will actually strengthen both NATO and the European Union; because many of the EU member states are also NATO members. So if you have stronger German defence, French defence, Italian defence, of course that’s both good for the EU, for Europe, and for NATO. As long as it happens in a well-coordinated way.
Jens Stoltenberg: Well, what we do is based on request from Libya; our activities are totally demand-driven, meaning that we only do things that Libya wants us to do. We got the request in February, then I spoke with Al-Sarraj, the Prime Minister, last week, and we agreed that our teams should meet in the following weeks to discuss the details. What we are working on is how NATO can help Libya build up defence and security institutions, like a modern ministry of defence with democratic control of the armed forces, like a joint chief of staffs and intelligence services. We have to understand the importance of institutions, because that’s the foundation for security. Of course it’s important to train troops, but we have to make sure that when troops are trained they are part of a structure where you have democratic control and where troops are used in a good way. So that’s the reason why we are working with Libya on how we can build defence institutions.
Jens Stoltenberg: Well NATO is the most successful alliance in history and we have been able to preserve peace and security in Europe for close to seven decades, 70 years. And the strength of NATO is that we are 28 democracies where there are different political parties, different views on many things, but we’ve always been able to agree on the most important thing. And that is that we defend each other, we stand together based on the idea of one for all-all for one. And NATO is able to adapt, to change – when the world is changing, we are also changing. In addition, NATO is strong because we work with partners. We have seen it in Afghanistan, in Kosovo, in many other places. History proves that NATO is able to defend and protect all allies because we stand together.
Jens Stoltenberg: Turkey is a key ally for many reasons, but especially for its strategic geographic location: bordering Iraq, Syria and all the violence, the turmoil we see to the south, but also close to Russia in the Black sea. And Turkey has suffered many terrorist attacks; no other ally has suffered so many terrorist attacks. And they also saw a failed coup attempt in July last year. And of course Turkey has the right to protect itself and also to prosecute those who were behind the failed coup attempt. But that has to take place based on the rule of law, full respect to the rule of law. I attach great importance to those values myself, and this is an issue we have discussed with the Turkish leadership. So I look forward to meeting all the NATO leaders when they gather in Brussels in May; we will have Heads of State coming there, all 28 of them; with the new US president, the new French president but also with President Erdogan. So they will all meet and we can discuss all common challenges.
Thank you so much, it was a pleasure to see you. Thank you.