by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and His Majesty the King of Spain at the meeting of the North Atlantic Council

  • 21 Nov. 2018 -
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  • Last updated: 21 Nov. 2018 15:32

(As delivered)

Jens Stoltenberg [NATO Secretary General]: Welcome, Your Majesty.  On behalf of the North Atlantic Council it is a great pleasure and honour to welcome you here to the new NATO Headquarters. In 1982 NATO, an alliance based on democracy, individual liberty, and the judicial law welcomed Spain as a member. NATO keeps Spanish citizens secure and Spain is committed and highly-valued NATO Ally.

Spain’s voice is valued around this table where we take key decisions for our security. Your troops are part of our battle group in Latvia. Spanish jets help police Allied airspace over the Baltics. You host missile defence ships in Rota and your Patriot battery in Turkey helps protect against missile threats form Syria. Spanish troops also play an important role in the fight against terrorism between Afghan forces so they can build the conditions for peace and they train Iraqi forces to defuse improvised explosive devices and to ensure ISIL does not come back. Our work to stabilise partners and our cooperation with the European Union in the Mediterranean can also help alleviate the refugee and migrant crisis.

And so, we thank you for your country’s active role in this Alliance and, once again, it is a pleasure to welcome and then to give you the floor, Your Majesty. So, please welcome.

His Majesty King Felipe VI of Spain: Mr Secretary General, Ambassadors, Minister – first of all, allow me to thank you Secretary General for your kind words regarding myself and Spain. It is a real pleasure to be back since 2002.  Then as Crown Prince and now to the new headquarters as King of Spain. And thank you also for the opportunity to address today’s session of the North Atlantic Council; it is indeed a great honour. So, this is my first visit to the new headquarters that were inaugurated just a few months ago. It surely represents in the best way possible, not only the enduring importance of the Alliance but also its ability and our common will and need to adapt to new times and new challenges. Mr Secretary General, Ambassadors - next year we will all celebrate the 70th Anniversary of the Washington Treaty. Together we will celebrate 70 years of commitment – 70 years of unity and the defence of our shared values. But, these values and principles are not 70 years of age. No, they are very much older than this great Alliance. They are the same values and principles that inspired the founding fathers of the United States when they wrote the Declaration of Independence in 1776. They are the same values and principles that inspired the members of France’s National Constituent Assembly when they wrote the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Other Citizens in 1789. And they are the same values and principles that inspired the authors of Spain’s first constitution in 1812 - the Constitution of Cadiz. These same values and principles are, of course, today contained in Spain’s present constitution. Of which we are celebrating its 40th Anniversary in just a few days on the 6th December. This constitution not only established an advanced democratic, plural framework of freedom and rule of law for all the people of Spain, but it also enabled Spain to once again be fully part of the international community. Indeed, without the constitution of 1978 Spain would not have become a member of this organisation in 1982, or a member of the European Union in 1986.

Over the course of the 70-year history that we will shortly commemorate, the Alliance has proven its capacity to effectively respond to any challenges and threats to global security; adapting to shifting, historical-induced strategic circumstances.  All aimed at guaranteeing the territorial integrity of the Allies and protecting the democratic values that are at the very foundation of our modern societies. This path of success is built on two higher values that define the Alliance present. And will define its future: the importance of unity and the essential nature of the transatlantic relationship. This second value – this essential nature - and I am sure I will pull some smiles from you now - pre-dates 1949 and is in fact much older. It was forged 457 years ago before the Washington Treaty. Because it was in 1492 when the Spanish Crown discovered the new world to the old world when the idea of fraternal unity between the two shores of the Atlantic began to take shape. A unity that we continue to defend in these halls. Mr Secretary General, Ambassadors – it is clear that in today’s world NATO is facing a complex strategic environment combining a myriad of threats. Resurgence of old and familiar ones and emergence of new dangers. Hybrid threats that combine convention and unconventional domains and which have enormous potential for destabilisation; or cyber-attacks and misinformation campaigns, which in using new technology are more subtle and covert and, therefore, more difficult to contain but can indeed dramatically affect our day-to-day lives. These challenges are sometimes global and are changing the security paradigms. As in the case of international terrorism whose brutality we all sadly know, and Spain particularly. And which we must always fight together if we are to be effective. Mr Secretary General, Ambassadors – since joining NATO in 1982 Spain has demonstrated its sincere active commitment to the Alliance, an alliance that plays a key role in maintaining international peace and security. In accordance with the purposes and principles set down in Chapter One of the United Nations Charter.  My country has a unique geostrategic position between Africa and Europe and America – between the Mediterranean and the Atlantic. Between the north and the south. Which makes Spain both a border and a bridge between countries and cultures with a singular profile in terms of global security. Respect for international law and for a fair, inclusive and effective global governance supported by our dedication to multilateralism are the pillars of Spain’s commitment to the international order and to maintaining international peace and security. Spain firmly believes in preventive diplomacy, in peaceful solutions to international disputes and in dialogue as a means of easing and even resolving conflicts. It is with this conviction in mind that Spain actively contributes to the Alliance’s political and military endeavours. At present there are approximately 3,000 men and women from Spain’s armed forces deployed abroad on NATO missions and on EU, UN and national missions. All clearly reflecting Spain’s determination to be an unwavering, steadfast ally. Men and women from our army, our navy and our air force, as well as our civil guard, have served or are serving in NATO actions, missions and operations. They have served on land in Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq, Turkey and Latvia. They have served in the skies over the Baltics and over Libya. They have served on the borders of the Mediterranean and Indian Ocean. Wherever NATO is, or has been, Spanish troops have also been present. That is our commitment, that is our hallmark. As a strongly committed member of both NATO and the EU, Spain supports an ambitious European defence, a defence that increases our effectiveness in addressing the crises that affect our own security and that contributes to a better distribution of responsibilities between the two sides of the Atlantic. Europe can and must assume greater responsibility for our common defence and security. All of this in harmony with NATO as part of this commitment to strengthening Europe’s security. Spain has the firm conviction that strong transatlantic ties must be maintained. Transatlantic solidarity and cohesion are fundamental. Their absence or weakening: a huge risk to world peace and stability. Spain has defended collaboration between the two organisations focusing on the complementary and clear synergies that exist between them both. And on avoiding unnecessary overlaps and duplications. We welcome the unprecedented levels of cooperation achieved between the Atlantic Alliance and the European Union in recent years. The declarations signed in Warsaw and Brussels are indisputable proof of this; and please allow me, Mr Secretary General, to thank you for your personal involvement and dedication to achieving these advantages, which my country truly appreciates.

Cooperating with EU and with other international organisations such as the UN, the OSCE and the African Union is crucial to our security. Doing so, with our partners -above all those that are strategically close - with the aim or projecting stability is the best way to guarantee our own security. Therefore, the Alliance must continue to play an important role in the south. A region that is of particular interest to us and in which some of the security challenges that most concern us are perhaps concentrated. It must do so through political dialogue and practical cooperation with our Mediterranean partners. As well as through the missions deployed - like in Afghanistan and Iraq in which Spain is an active participant. Security and peace in Europe are directly linked to greater stability in the Mediterranean region where cooperation between NATO and the European Union is increasingly necessary, offering more and more possibilities for synergies. I would also like to speak about Spain’s commitment to women, peace and security – a matter that I understand will be discussed by the Council after this meeting has ended. Spain has been spearheading initiatives at the international level and promoting women’s increased participation in conflict prevention and peace-building. Combating violations and abuses of their freedoms and dignity. With a conviction that gender inequality is yet another threat to international peace and security. We must all take on greater responsibility for effectively applying the regulatory framework we have helped to shape. The role of NATO is also fundamental in this area.

Mr Secretary General, Ambassadors – I would also like on this occasion to honour all those who have given their lives during NATO operations and missions, to uphold our shared values.  We must never forget their exemplary dedication and sacrifice, which must guide us always in our daily work. To conclude, I wish to emphasise the concept of commitment – a word that defines this Alliance like no other. To emphasise NATO’s commitment to the values and principles that define us as free societies, and also to emphasise Spain’s steadfast commitment to this Alliance, an alliance that will soon have stood for 70 years. May the next seven decades be equally full of success in defending freedom and democracy. I, for one, am sure that they will. Thank you all very much.

Jens Stoltenberg [NATO Secretary General]: Your Majesty, thank you so much for your speech and I think that this speech really reflects the strong commitment of your country to our Alliance and the many contributions you are making to our shared security and to our collective defence. Let me also take this opportunity to thank you for your personal commitment to our Alliance.