Joint press point

by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and the President of Croatia, Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović

  • 14 Jun. 2018 -
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  • Last updated: 14 Jun. 2018 14:09

(As delivered)

Joint press conference with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and the President of the Republic of Croatia Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic

President Grabar-Kitarovic, dear Kolinda.

It’s great to have you here at the NATO headquarters. It’s good to see you again and welcome to the new NATO headquarters. You know NATO very well but it is a great pleasure to welcome you to this new building. I know that you were here during our leaders’ meeting in May but this is the first time we meet for a bilateral meeting at the new headquarters.

Croatia is a committed NATO Ally. You contribute to different NATO missions and operations, including to our enhanced forward presence in Lithuania and in Poland.

And to our missions in Afghanistan and in Kosovo.

I would also like to thank you for your contributions to our Military Transition Trust Fund in Ukraine, which shows that you are supporting NATO efforts in many different ways.

Today we discussed preparations for the NATO Summit next month.

That Summit will be important because that will be a platform to demonstrate the unity of the Alliance, the transatlantic bond.

But also to make important decisions on how to strengthen our deterrence and defence.

How to step up our efforts when it comes to projecting stability, including fighting terrorism. And to further strengthen our cooperation with the European Union.

We will also at the Summit discuss burden sharing.

As you all know, we made a decision, a pledge, a defence investment pledge in Wales at our NATO Summit there in 2014. We agreed to stop the cuts in defence spending.

To gradually increase and move towards spending 2% of GDP on defence within a decade. And I welcome that Croatia has stopped the cuts in defence spending and also started to increase but I hope that Croatia can do more because we need all Allies to fully make good on the pledge we made together back in 2014.

Then we also discussed the situation in South East Europe. This is important for the whole of NATO, for the whole of Europe. And Stability and security in this region benefits stability and security in Europe.  We appreciate the role Croatia plays in supporting security and stability in the region.

And the Euro-Atlantic aspirations of neighbouring countries.

We also addressed and welcomed the agreement between Skopje and Athens on the name issue and this agreement is an historic opportunity to solve a dispute which can then unlock the accession of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia into NATO. And therefore I really hope that the agreement will be finalised and fully implemented so it really provides this historic opportunity for the region.

So once again, welcome, it’s great to have you here and thank you so much for visiting NATO.

Oana Lungescu [NATO Spokesperson]: OK, are there any questions?  Gentleman over there.

Question: Hello everyone.  I want to ask you… I don’t know if it was a topic of your conversation about the relations with the United States.  German Foreign Minister said yesterday said that the old world order as we knew it doesn’t exist anymore because of the actions of Trump Administration.  And Mr Secretary General, how do you see Donald Trump's latest decisions, such as his refusal to endorse the G7 declaration and then be friendlier with world's worst dictators than his closest Allies?  And then, in that context, what do you expect from him on the Summit next month?

And Madam President, are you willing, as so many other Western leaders are, say that certain actions of Trump’s Administration are bad for international relations?  And also, what do you expect on the Summit in that regard?

Jens Stoltenberg [NATO Secretary General]: President Trump and United States is… or are committed to NATO and to the transatlantic bond.  That’s something the President has clearly stated several times.  But the US commitment to the transatlantic bond to NATO is not only something we see in declarations, but also something we see in concrete actions on the ground.  And actions speak louder than words because what we see now is that the United States is actually increasing their presence in Europe, with more troops, more exercises, more investments into European security.  So, the reality is that when it comes to defence, NATO security, the transatlantic bond is actually becoming stronger, both with North America, Canada and the United States, increasing their military presence in Europe, but also with European Allies investing more in defence.

Then, I admit that there are disagreements, differences, between nations on both sides of the Atlantic.  Having said that, I think it's important to remember that it's nothing new that there are differences.  We have seen that before, all the way back to the Suez Crisis in the 50s, or the Iraq War in 2003.  What NATO has proven again and again, that despite those differences we have been able to unite around NATO's core task, to protect and defend each other.  And that’s exactly what we are doing now.  NATO has implemented the biggest reinforcement of our collective defence since the end of the Cold War.  We are stepping up our efforts to fight terrorism, and we are addressing many other security challenges together.

So yes, there are challenges and differences on trade, on climate, on other issues, but NATO has proven able to deliver and to strengthen the transatlantic cooperation, and I expect the Summit to also once again demonstrate the unity and the strength of NATO.

Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović [President of Croatia]: My expectations are that this Summit perhaps will, more than other Summit in the recent history, underline that transatlantic bond and the strength of it.  So, I do have positive expectations in that respect.  I know that President Trump will ask for more defence spending or defence investment on part of the other Allies, and I would say rightfully so because we have all committed to the defence spending pledge, as I said, of 2% and 20% respectfully [sic].  And we have to show not only commitment, but show action and results that we have done so.

In terms of your other question, yes it's important to voice your opinion and express differences when there are so, but I don’t think that rhetorical declarations will lead to any results.  I do believe in genuine cooperation, in trust and in working together when resolving our differences, with respect to the issues that the Secretary General has mentioned.  But I think that it's also important to carry out dialogue with anyone based on a two-track, or a multi-track approach, one that secures the security and the respect for international law, and the second track that secures major changes in terms of preventing a nuclear… a potential nuclear disaster or a potential conflict that could have global implications.  Thank you.

Oana Lungescu [NATO Spokesperson]: OK, lady over there.  HRT.

Question [HRT]: Hi.  Thank you.  Yes, Croatian Television.  Secretary General, last week you presented the figures for 2018 on defence spending, but you also said that you have received only 15 national plans for 15 member states on how they will meet 2% target by 2024.  So, I wonder did you specifically discuss this with our Croatian President?  When will Croatia present its national plan?  And the same question for Madam President.  Thank you.

Jens Stoltenberg [NATO Secretary General]: Well, we discussed the importance of defence investments and also the importance of following up, implementing the pledge all NATO Allies made back in 2014.  The good news is that what we have seen is that all Allies have stopped the cuts, all Allies have started to increase defence spending and more Allies spend 2% of GDP on defence.  And the majority of Allies have put forward plans on how to reach 2% within a decade.

So, we have turned a corner.  We are moving in the right direction.  And Croatia is part of that because Croatia has stopped the cuts and started to increase.  But I, of course, encourage Croatia to do more because we still have a long way to go, meaning to continue to increase defence investments as a percentage of GDP, but also to present a national plan on how to reach the 2% target within a decade.

So, I welcome the progress I see in Croatia and also in other NATO Allies, but I urge them to do more and to follow up the pledge we made together in 2014.

Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović [President of Croatia]: It's true Croatia has not yet formally submitted a national plan for reaching the 2% of the GDP spending for… or investment for defence.  The Ministry of Defence has prepared several budgetary projections that have been discussed in a formal setting, but no decisions have been made in that sense.  And Croatia will present its formal national plan as soon as the government of Croatia has adopted it.

Oana Lungescu [NATO Spokesperson]: Thank you very much.  This concludes this press point.  Thank you.

Jens Stoltenberg [NATO Secretary General]: Thank you.

Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović [President of Croatia]: Thank you.