by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at a meeting of the European Council
I look forward to meeting the EU leaders and to discuss NATO-EU cooperation.
And NATO and the EU, we are working together in many different areas. We work together on migration. We address the root causes through our presence in countries like Afghanistan and Iraq, helping to stabilise our neighbourhood.
But we also work together in the Aegean Sea and the Mediterranean. Currently NATO has 10 ships and maritime patrol aircraft helping to implement the agreement between Turkey and the EU to curb the flow of migrants over the Aegean Sea.
And we also provide help to the EU Operation Sophia in the Mediterranean.
We work together on military mobility, infrastructure, legal hurdles, to make sure that we are able to move forces quickly through Europe if needed.
And we are also working together in the Western Balkans, we have been working together there for many many years. And it is really encouraging to see that there is progress, there is some hope and later on today I will meet with Prime Minister Tsipras, tomorrow morning I will meet with Prime Minister Zaev. And I will commend them both for their courage, for their leadership, agreeing on the agreement on the name issue. And I’m confident that when the NATO leaders meet at the Summit next month in Brussels they will decide to open accession talks with the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia¹.
And then I will also discuss transatlantic issues, the importance of the transatlantic relationship. We should have no illusions, Europe and North America need each other especially now when we see security threats, challenges we haven’t seen for many decades. We have to stand together, Europe and North America. And NATO-EU cooperation is part of this transatlantic relationship, and therefore I also look very much forward to signing a joint declaration between President Juncker, President Tusk and me before the NATO Summit.
Question: Secretary General, … [inaudible] reporting this morning that at the G7 Summit, President Trump said to his G7 counterparts here that it will be an interesting Summit, referring to the upcoming NATO Summit, because NATO is as bad as NAFTA, it's much too costly for the US. You've heard the reports about the worry leading up to this Summit. What's your reaction to this quote from the US President?
Jens Stoltenberg [NATO Secretary General]: I'm absolutely confident and certain that President Trump is committed to NATO. He has stated that in many meetings with me, but also publically. But more importantly, he has proven his commitment to NATO not only in words, but also in deeds. After Trump became President of the United States, the US funding for US military presence in Europe has increased by 40%. So, the United States is increasing its military presence in Europe, with more troops, more exercises, more prepositioned equipment. So, what we see is that both Canada and North America are stepping up their presence in Europe, and European Allies are also doing more together. So, I'm confident that at the Summit, with President Trump and all the other leaders, next month in NATO, will make important substantive decisions on how to strengthen the transatlantic bond within NATO.
Question: About the Putin-Trump Summit, what's your reaction to that?
Jens Stoltenberg [NATO Secretary General]: I welcome the upcoming meeting between President Trump and President Putin because I believe in dialogue and NATO's approach to Russia is what we call a dual-track approach. It is defence and dialogue. For me, dialogue is not a sign of weakness; dialogue is a sign of strength. And, after two years with no meetings in what we call the… or in the NATO-Russia Council, we have been able to reactivate that Council as a platform for dialogue between NATO and Russia. And therefore, I think it's absolutely, totally in line with NATO policies to talk to Russia, to meet with Russian leaders. We don’t want a new Cold War, we don’t want to isolate Russia, we want to strive for a better relationship for Russia and therefore I welcome the meeting between… [interrupted by question]
Question: About immigration, do you have any proposal today?
Jens Stoltenberg [NATO Secretary General]: Well, we will discuss how we can work even closer together on addressing the migrant and refugee crisis. What NATO does is that we are addressing the root causes, trying to stabilise the countries in our neighbourhood. We are going to launch a new training mission in Iraq, helping the Iraqi government to stabilise its own country. That’s the best way to help also to deal with the migrant and refugee crisis.
And then of course we are constantly also discussing with the EU what more we can do to, for instance, help implementing the agreement between Turkey, a NATO Ally, and the European Union, regarding the flow of migrants through the Aegean Sea.
Question: What can Georgia expect from the upcoming Summit as …? [inaudible]
Jens Stoltenberg [NATO Secretary General]: I expect that the NATO leaders, when they meet in July at the Summit, will recognise the progress Georgia is making and strongly commit to continue to provide political and practical support for Georgia.
[Question and Answers in Norwegian]
Question: How can NATO support EU to support Middle East peace in order to stop the migration flow?
Jens Stoltenberg [NATO Secretary General]: Well, NATO is helping to address the root causes for the migrant and refugee crisis, through our presence in countries like Afghanistan and Iraq. I expect that NATO leaders, when they meet in Brussels at the Summit in July, next month, that they will decide a new training mission in Iraq and the main purpose of that training mission is to help the Iraqis stabilise their own country. And that’s a way also then to address the root causes of the migrant and refugee crisis.
Question: … [inaudible] conversations that you think, with Russia, is important. Seemingly, that is now going to happen face to face with the leader of the United States. After his meeting with Kim Jong-un, there was a lot of criticism that he got nothing concrete, in terms of assurances from the North Koreans. Can you give me something from NATO's perspective that you would consider to be concrete from Mr Putin’s meeting?
Jens Stoltenberg [NATO Secretary General]: First of all, I believe we just have to talk to Russia. Because Russia is our neighbour, Russia is there to stay, we have to talk to Russia partly to try to strive for a better relationship, but even without a better relationship we need to manage a difficult relationship. Because we have more military exercises, we have more military presence along our borders, so anything related to transparency, reciprocal briefings on exercises, mechanisms for risk reduction to prevent any incidents or accidents, will be very helpful. This is something NATO is very focused on, and I also know that the United States is focused on how can they manage the relationship with Russia in a way that prevents any incidents or accidents.
Question: Are you worried that it's going to be a symbolic meeting?
Jens Stoltenberg [NATO Secretary General]: I think it is important to meet because, since Russia is our biggest neighbour, we need to work for a better relationship with Russia. And there is no way we can improve the relationship with Russia without meeting Russia. Dialogue is not a sign of weakness; dialogue is a sign of strength. And NATO's approach to Russia is what we call a dual-track approach, meaning defence and dialogue. And as long as we are strong, as long as we are united, we can talk to Russia. That's also my experience as Norwegian politician. I was Prime Minister of Norway, a small country bordering Russia. We were actually able to work with Russia on many issues: on border issues, military issues, environment, energy, not despite NATO but because of NATO, because as long as we were part of a strong military alliance we were able to talk to Russia.
Question: Thank you so much.
Question: I have a question on Germany particularly … [inaudible] focus. At the upcoming NATO Summit, how will you mend the disarray between the US and Germany's underspending?
Jens Stoltenberg [NATO Secretary General]: There are differences and disagreements between NATO Allies on different issues, like for instance trade, the Iran nuclear deal. But at the same time, what we have seen again and again is that, within NATO, we have been able to overcome these differences and then unite around our core task, to defend and protect each other. And I am absolutely certain that we can manage this also this time, because it is in our interests to stand together and we should have no illusions. Europe and North America, we need each other, so we have to stand together.
On defence spending, I welcome the fact that Germany has actually started to increase. Last year, we saw almost 6% real increase in German defence spending, and Germany has announced plans to further increase defence spending significantly. So, we are moving in the right direction. All Allies have started to increase defence spending, and Germany is part of that.
Question: Thank you very much.
Jens Stoltenberg [NATO Secretary General]: Thank you.