Joint press point

with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and the President of Slovenia, Borut Pahor

  • 09 Jan. 2018 -
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  • Last updated: 09 Jan. 2018 17:20

(As delivered)

President Pahor, dear Borut,

It’s great to meet you again, we have worked together for many many years, in different capacities, and I appreciate very much to welcome you to the NATO Headquarters here in Brussels.

I understand that this is the first visit of a Slovenian president for many many years so therefore it is a special pleasure for me to welcome you.

And let me also thank you for the important contributions Slovenia is providing to NATO and our collective defence. You participate with troops in Afghanistan in our Resolute Support Mission there, helping to fight terrorism. Slovenia is present with many troops in KFOR, in Kosovo, with hundreds of troops and they are playing a key role in our presence in Kosovo. And I would also like to thank Slovenia for contributing with troops to our battle group in Latvia. And this just shows that Slovenia contributes to our shared security, to our collective defence, and that shows how the Alliance is working, where 29 Allies work together, stand together and have promised to defend each other.

We are adapting the Alliance, and Slovenia is part of that, we are adapting the Alliance to a new and more demanding security environment with a more assertive Russia to the East and with the turmoil and the violence and the terrorism in the South, not in the least in Iraq, Syria and the wider Middle-East region. NATO is responding, we are strengthening our collective defence in Europe, and we are projecting stability beyond our borders. We do that in the Western Balkans but we do it also in the fight against terrorism in countries like Iraq and Afghanistan.

I also welcome that Slovenia is supporting the very successful efforts to strengthen the cooperation between NATO and the European Union. We have been able to bring the NATO-EU cooperation to a new level. We work together on issues like cyber, hybrid, military mobility and many other issues and I also welcome the efforts to strengthen European defence, EU defence, but the important thing is that this is not an alternative to NATO, it is something which has to be developed in complementarity with NATO, because NATO is the organisation which is responsible for the collective defence of European NATO Allies.

I also welcome that Slovenia has stopped the cuts in defence spending and also that we have seen some increase, but I expect Slovenia to continue to increase defence spending because we all agreed, the 29 Allies agreed, first in 2014, and then we reiterated that commitment at our Summit in Warsaw in 2016 that we will stop the cuts, gradually increase defence spending and then move towards spending 2% of GDP on defence within a decade, and I expect all Allies to make good on that pledge and therefore I also expect Slovenia to do so.

Six months from now, in July, we will have a NATO Summit here at the new NATO Headquarters at the other side of the road. We will address how NATO can continue to adapt to a more challenging security environment, including how we can strengthen our collective defence and how we can project stability, fighting terrorism beyond our borders.

And I look forward to continue to work with you Mr. President as NATO develops and as NATO is adapting and responding to a more demanding security environment.

So once again, welcome, it’s great to have you here.

MODERATOR: We'll start with the Slovenian News Agency.

Q (Slovenian News Agency): … Slovenian News Agency. I have a question about one topic that you haven’t mentioned, but I would like to ask if you also touched upon it, that is the arbitration award on the border between Slovenia and Croatia. For Secretary General, I would like to ask if you discussed it and what's your view of this issue, in particular concerning the Western Balkans, the stability in the Western Balkans. In December you expressed concern about the situation there, you called all parties to reduce tensions and avoid inflammatory rhetoric. I'd like to ask you if you are concerned that non-implementation of this arbitration award could worsen the situation in the region. And for Slovenian President, do you see a role for NATO to play in this process, in these efforts to ensure the implementation of the arbitration award? Thank you.

JENS STOLTENBERG (Secretary General of NATO): This is not an issue for NATO and we didn’t discuss it, so it's not for me to go into the substance of that issue. I think the President can do that but it's not a NATO issue. In general we are of course focused on how we can help to reduce any tensions in the Western Balkans. NATO has a history in the Western Balkans, but this issue of the arbitration is not for NATO to go into.

BORUT PAHOR (President of Slovenia): I didn’t want to debate this issue. It's not a NATO issue. I cannot imagine that anybody, any country, would use force to implement the agreement or to take actions against the implementation by using force. So it should be crystal clear that it's up to diplomacy, up to politics on both sides, with the help of the European Commission, not NATO, to reach, you know, a good path to implement the award by the court.
Nevertheless, it is crystal clear to both of us that this has some sort of echo in the region. As I said, Slovenia and Croatia, the President of Slovenia and the Madam President of Croatia, we both are sharing a very, very important initiative, Brdo-Brioni process. In case Slovenia and Croatia wouldn’t be able to solve how to implement the decision by the court, that would have, you know, some sort of bad implications for the moral and political authority of our leadership to this very important initiative. But let us hope that yesterday's meeting with the two leaders, Tusk and the Commission President Juncker, produced some good results for actions to be done by the European Union.

MODERATOR: Okay, Slovenian television.

Q (Slovenian Daily Newspaper): … Delo, Slovenian Daily Newspaper. Just a question on spending, on expenditure. Mr. Secretary General, are you satisfied with the speed of how Slovenia is fulfilling its commitments from Wales, especially concerning spending on equipment. Slovenia has one of the lowest shares in the whole alliance. Do you have any more concrete recommendations or advices to the Slovenian government how to fulfil this?

JENS STOLTENBERG: I think it is important to remember that after the end of the Cold War almost all European allies started to decrease defence spending. So over a long period of time we saw a decrease, a cut in defence spending across Europe.

Then, after 2014, after Russia's illegal annexation of Crimea and the use of force against Ukraine, and also the general deterioration of the security environment with ISIL, Daesh, in Iraq, Syria and all the instability and violence we saw close to our borders, NATO allies decided in 2014 to stop the cuts, gradually increase defence spending, and move towards 2%.

I say this because I fully understand that when tensions are going down allies are reducing defence spending, but then we have to be able also to increase defence spending when tensions are going up as they are now. And therefore I welcome the decision by NATO allies to stop the cuts and start to increase. We didn’t decide to reach 2% immediately. We didn’t know and expect all allies to spend 2% of GDP on defence this year. What we expected to do is to stop the cuts, start to increase, and then move towards spending 2%.

I welcome that Slovenia has stopped the cuts and that we have seen some increase. At the same time of course I expect Slovenia to do more to both increase overall defence spending, especially since the economy of Slovenia has started to increase again. That makes it even more important that Slovenia is also able to increase defence spending. But not only do I expect Slovenia to increase defence spending, but also to allocate more of the defence budget for equipment. Because we need equipment, we need investments in research, development and modern equipment to modernize our armed forces.

We have something called the Defence Planning Process in NATO, which enables to make sure that we don’t duplicate each other, but that different nations provide different kinds of capabilities, so we all together can deliver the necessary capabilities as an alliance.
So I expect Slovenia to do more, to increase defence spending and to allocate a larger proportion of that for investments. And the aim is then 2% of GDP for defence and out of that 20% for investments, and of course these guidelines or these decision goals also apply for Slovenia.

MODERATOR: Thank you very much. This concludes this press point.