Joint press point

with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and German Chancellor Angela Merkel

  • 15 Jun. 2018 -
  • |
  • Last updated: 15 Jun. 2018 21:17

(As delivered)

Joint press point with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and German Chancellor Angela Merkel

Thank you so much, Chancellor Merkel.

Dear Angela. It is always a pleasure to meet with you. 

Germany plays an essential role in NATO.

And in international peace and security.

You lead our multinational battlegroup in Lithuania. You will host the new NATO support command in Ulm.  And you make major contributions to NATO operations – from Afghanistan to Kosovo and the Aegean Sea.

We just had an excellent discussion to prepare for the NATO Summit in Brussels next month.

We agree that we must continue to increase the readiness of our forces.

To respond to the challenges we face. 

We also agree that our dual-track approach to Russia is the right one:

Strong deterrence and defence combined with meaningful dialogue.

Our dialogue with Russia is not easy.

But the more difficult our relations are, the more we need dialogue.

To increase transparency, reduce risks,

and to continue to address our concerns about the situation in Ukraine.

As well as about Russia’s meddling in our domestic democratic processes. 

At the Summit, we will also take decisions on fighting terrorism and projecting stability.

We will launch a new training mission in Iraq.

To help Iraqis to stabilise their own country.

And make sure that ISIS does not come back.

Our training mission in Afghanistan is another key contribution to the fight against international terrorism.

And I expect that we will agree at the Summit to extend funding for the Afghan forces to 2024, to support them as they create the conditions for peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan. 

So NATO is addressing instability in our southern neighbourhood, which is a root cause of the refugee and migrant crisis.

We also discussed NATO’s cooperation with the European Union.

Which has reached unprecedented levels, in many areas. From our maritime operations to countering hybrid threats and cyber attacks.

I will sign a joint declaration with Presidents Tusk and Juncker.

Setting out a joint vision on how NATO and the EU can work even more closely together in the future.

And I welcome Germany’s efforts to keep the momentum in our cooperation.

Because stronger EU efforts on defence mean a stronger NATO. Everything we do as an Alliance relies on fair burden sharing. And after many years of decline in our defence spending, we are now seeing significant progress.

All Allies have stopped the cuts.

All Allies are investing more. 

More Allies spend 2% of GDP on defence. And a majority have plans to do so by 2024.

So we have come a long way, but we still have a long way to go. I welcome that Germany has stopped the cuts and started to increase.

With a 6 % real increase in defence spending last year. But I encourage you to do more.

And to make good on the pledge we all made on defence investment.

German leadership on this issue is crucial.

We must do this for our own security in an unpredictable world. 

Today, we see differences among our nations  on serious issues.

Such as trade, climate, and the Iran deal.

These disagreements are real.

But despite our differences, we can – and we must – sustain the transatlantic bond.

Because it has ensured our security for seventy years. And it remains vital for the future.  

Chancellor Merkel,

Thank you again for Germany’s outstanding contributions to NATO. For your strong leadership. And for your long-standing personal commitment to our transatlantic Alliance.

I look forward to continuing to work with you and to continue to work with you as we prepare for our upcoming Summit. 

Question: Hi, Chancellor, Secretary General, it’s a question for both of you. After the G7 summit, and looking at the current state of transatlantic relations, what is really at stake at the upcoming NATO summit?

Angela Merkel [Interpreted]: I believe that if you look closely at the preparatory work leading up to the summit, you can safely say that this will have firm results, this summit meeting, it’s not just happening on that very day, but it’s carefully prepared. You look at the fact that the defence ministers have met and I believe that, in spite of all of the existing differences of opinion, this will be a very constructive summit meeting where we take very important decisions.

Jens Stoltenberg: The summit provides an opportunity to show transatlantic unity and to show that, despite the differences we see on trade, on climate, on the Iran deal, NATO is able to continue to deliver credible deterrence and strong defence. And that’s exactly what we have proven able to do over the last couple of years. We have implemented the biggest reinforcement of collective defence since the end of the Cold War, we have stepped up the fight against terrorism and we see that European Allies are investing more in defence. At the same time, the US and Canada are increasing their presence in Europe, so, when it comes to defence and security, when it comes to the cooperation within NATO, we don’t see any weakening of the transatlantic bond, we actually see that the transatlantic bond is strengthened. And the summit will take decisions that further strengthen these transatlantic bond, both with high readiness, with our training mission in Iraq, support for the peace process in Afghanistan and also with renewed commitments to increase defence spending.

Question: Secretary General, one question also concerning the summit and the situation after the G7 summit, how strong is your fear or your concern that US President Trump, again, after what happened in Canada, is likely to let’s say not destroy the summit, but at least, like, to, to lead the summit to another clash? How concerned are you about this?

Question: Madam Chancellor, you just mentioned 1.5 by 2024. So far this target is not really in the mid-term budget … sort of earmarked and funded. What sort of concrete steps will you make until the summit meeting in order to see to it that it goes more into the direction of 1.5% than hitherto?

Jens Stoltenberg: The United Sates and also President Trump at the summit will once again reconfirm their commitment to the transatlantic unity and to the NATO Alliance. Partly because this has been clearly stated by President Trump, last time when I met him in Washington some weeks ago, but also because we see this on the ground with concrete actions. And actions speak louder than words, and we see the US commitment to NATO and to European security not only words, but also deeds. Because after years when we saw a reduced US military presence in Europe, we now see an increase in the US military presence in Europe.

And just since President Trump became president, we have seen a 40% increase in the US funding for US military presence in Europe. We see more troops, more exercises, more pre-positioned equipment and the US is also leading one of the battle groups, the battle group we have in Poland. And I expect us to make decisions on increased readiness, on more joint activities, for instance, in fighting terrorism. So I'm confident that the President will come to Brussels in July and that all the other leaders will also be there, and that we together will send a strong message of NATO unity. And we had, as the Chancellor just mentioned, we had a NATO Defence Ministerial meeting last week that made important decisions and they show that NATO is delivering on security, on defence despite the differences you see related to trade and other issues.

Angela Merkel [Interpreted]: Let me make two remarks on this. Before the NATO summit, we shall adopt our budget for 2019 and if you look at the increase ever since 2014 and look at the sort of mid-term budgetary projection, then you will see that increases for the following year and for the year after that have never actually really materialised in the budget. So for the medium-term budget, budgetary forecast, you cannot really make any predictions as to the actual budget for each ministry.

Question [Interpreted]: Thank you. I have a question also on defence spending. First from Chancellor Merkel. Did, do I understand you right that you don't think the 2% goal, 2% of GDP goal is realistic for Germany to gain by 2024 like you agreed in Wales meeting? And for Secretary General Stoltenbery, is the goal of 2% of GDP an absolute goal or is it more important how the money's spent?

Angela Merkel [Interpreted]: Well, the Wales target was that over the next ten years our budgets would be developed in such a way that we go towards this 2% goal, target. And this we do, no doubt about it. Although if I'm realistic, we will not be able to reach the 2% by 2024. And I think one has to be honest, we’re going, we’re moving towards this. We accept this target but we also make realistic statements on this. We will however achieve another target, another goal, namely that 20% of means go into new equipment and this 20% target is something that we’re going to reach.

Jens Stoltenberg: You have to remember that back in 2014 when we made the pledge to increase defence spending, we didn't promise to spend 2% within the year. We actually made a decision in three steps. First, to stop the cuts. All Allies – also Germany has stopped the cuts. Second, to gradually increase. All Allies have started to increase including Germany. And then we promised to move towards spending 2% of GDP within a decade. The majority of the Allies have put forward plans on how to reach the 2% of spending of GDP on defence and more Allies are already at 2%.

I welcome the fact that Germany has stopped the cuts, has started to increase and last year it was a real increase of 6% which is significant. I encourage Germany to do more because Germany's the biggest economy in Europe, so it really matters what Germany does. We need German leadership on this issue. We have turned a corner. We are moving in the right direction but we still have a long way to go. Let me add that we promised to spend more and to spend better, but it's not either more or better. It's more and better, so we have to do both at the same time.