by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the joint press point with President Zoran Milanović of Croatia

  • 04 Mar. 2020 -
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  • Last updated: 04 Mar. 2020 22:27

(As delivered)

Dobar den.

And President Zoran Milanović, it’s great to be back in Zagreb and to meet you again. I remember very well when we met last time in Dubrovnik. And it’s great to be back here and to be able to continue to work with you. And let me start by congratulating you on your recent election as president of Croatia.

Croatia is a committed Ally, a highly valued Ally, and you contribute to our shared security in many different ways. You contribute to NATO missions and operations including the NATO presence in Lithuania and Poland. You contribute to our fight against terrorism through the deployment of Croatian troops to our training mission in Afghanistan and also our training mission in Iraq. And you also help to support regional stability through your presence in the NATO mission in Kosovo.

I also welcome the fact that Croatia is increasing investments in defence and that we have a clear commitment to meet the guideline of spending 2% of GDP on defence.

We all welcome the agreement that was signed in Kabul on Saturday. This is a first important step towards peace in Afghanistan but we know that the road towards peace will be hard and difficult. And the best way for us to support the peace process is to remain committed to Afghanistan with training and with funding. It is in our own interest that Afghanistan never again becomes a safe haven for international terrorists. We went into Afghanistan together after the attacks on the United States on 9/11, we’ll make decisions on adjusting our presence together. And when the time is right, when the conditions are met, then we will also eventually leave together.

Mr President, let me also congratulate you on the presidency of Croatia of the Council of the European Union. We welcome the fact that NATO and the EU are working ever more closely together. We face many different challenges and it is important that we address them together as NATO and as the EU.

We also welcome the fact that Croatia has been a strong supporter of NATO’s Open Door policy and that soon, within weeks, North Macedonia will become NATO’s 30th member, showing that NATO’s door remains open.

I would also like to thank Croatia for the fact that you have played a key role in the challenges we face in the Western Balkans and we count on your continued support.

As part of NATO, Croatia will never stand alone. NATO makes up half of the world’s military might and half of the world’s economic might so as long as we stand together we will all be safe. And together we will continue to protect and defend our people and the right to live the lives they want in peace.

Once again, thank you, it’s great to see you again.