Joint press point
with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and the Slovenian Prime Minister, Janez Janša
So Prime Minister Janša, Janez,
It’s great to see you here at the NATO Headquarters. Welcome. We just had a very extensive meeting, discussing different issues of importance for Slovenia and NATO.
And we also discussed NATO’s response to COVID-19.
Let me start by offering my deepest condolences for all those who died from the virus in Slovenia.
And I thank all those medical staff who have been on the front line.
NATO’s preparations for a possible second wave of COVID-19 are on track.
With an operation plan, a stockpile of medical equipment, and more funding.
During the crisis, Allies supported Slovenia by providing medical equipment and staff.
And I want to thank Slovenia for showing solidarity with NATO Allies and partners.
This includes sending medical supplies to North Macedonia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Across NATO, our armed forces have supported the civilian response to the virus.
And we must continue to ensure this health crisis does not become a security crisis.
The security challenges we faced before the pandemic have not gone away.
So our countries must continue to invest in their militaries to keep them strong.
And I count on Slovenia to continue increasing defence spending and implement its plans.
We all agree that this will help keep our Alliance strong.
I want to thank Slovenia for its continued contributions to NATO missions and operations.
Slovenian troops serve in our multinational battlegroup in Latvia.
And you are one of the top contributors to our KFOR peacekeeping mission in Kosovo.
You are helping to promote peace and stability across the Western Balkans.
This is good for the region, and for Euro-Atlantic security.
So Prime Minister Janša, dear Janez,
We must continue to adapt our Alliance to the changing security environment.
To meet new challenges, NATO must remain strong militarily; become stronger politically; and more global.
That is my vision for NATO 2030.
I know I can count on your support.
Thank you once again for being here today, and for Slovenia’s contributions to our Alliance.
So it’s great to see you and please, you have the floor.
JANEZ JANŠA [Prime Minister of Slovenia]: Well, thank you very much. I am glad that we were able today to continue our discussion we started by phone in the middle of May. I am also glad that I was able to inform you about some steps forward we did in Slovenia during this time, to increase our presence in NATO and to fulfil our obligations.
But obviously, one of the more pressing issues we address, as you said, is the situation involving . . . evolving around COVID-19. As it stands we might be, at least at the part of our continent, heading towards the second wave. Therefore, additional safety and systemic measures will have to be taken in order to try to avoid another lockdown. This is very important in light of stability and economic recovery of our countries. And although NATO is not the first responder, it has a very important role to play in joint international response to COVID-19 and so far, the reactions of NATO was very on time and very well coordinated. So thank you to Secretary General Mr Stoltenberg, for this cooperation in not a very easy time.
NATO and Allies have demonstrated the ability to continue operational activities despite, well, these demanding circumstances of epidemic, or of the threat of COVID-19. The Alliance has been proactive and prepared an operational plan for a potential second wave, which, as you said, might follow in upcoming weeks. It is vital we learn and act in accordance with the lessons learned during the first wave and I am glad that we have developed a good plan for the future.
And as COVID-19 pandemic has clearly demonstrated, it is also very important for . . . to further strengthen the strategic partnership between NATO and European Union. As organisations that share Euro-Atlantic values, deepening cooperation is beneficial for all of the stakeholders. Being a member of the next EU Council Presidency Trio, supporting this will be high on the list of Slovenian priorities.
We also discussed our participation in operations and missions. Slovenia is committed to maintain our active participation, despite the challenges we are facing due to COVID-19 and its economic consequences. I am very happy to see the Alliance has once again promoted its coherence and managed to prevent . . . to prevent the possibility of a health crisis spill-over and becoming a broader security issue regarding our missions abroad. It was a huge challenge and I am glad that we were able to manage it.
Lastly, we also addressed the modernisation of the Slovenian armed forces, together with planned structural reforms. Our government confirmed and sent to the parliament for adoption, a bill that will secure 780 million euros for investment in capabilities of the Slovenian armed forces over the next six years. This will enable the much-needed predictability and sustainability of our defence procurement process in the upcoming years. This will make our national defence stronger and this will make our commitment to NATO missions and to our obligations much more real or realistic than during the last years. Thank you very much.
OANA LUNGESCU: Okay, we have time for two questions. We’ll start with Slovenian National TV, gentlemen over there.
IGOR JURIC [Slovenian National TV]: Hi, Secretary General. Igor Juric, Slovenian National Television. First question goes to you. The Prime Minister just mentioned that Slovenia will invest in the next year, six years, around 780 millions. My question is: you heard in the last years many, many promises from the Slovenian side already, how much investment will be done. Do you think that this time Slovenia will be a credible partner which will fulfil its promises? That’s the question for you. And for the Prime Minister, will this money go primarily in the investment in, let’s say, equipment for the army, or money also for the salaries, which we know … [inaudible] that now disproportion in money and expenses for defence, it’s not so good for Slovenia as a member of NATO. Thank you.
JENS STOLTENBERG: Prime Minister Janša briefed me on the plans of the government and also the process in the parliament. When it comes to increased defence spending. And I am confident that these plans will be implemented, that we will see an increase in defence spending in Slovenia. This is, of course, something we welcome, partly because we welcome more Slovenian defence capabilities. But also, we know that by increasing defence spending in Slovenia, Slovenia is also investing in the transatlantic bond, in the transatlantic unity of our Alliance, because this is also about burden-sharing.
So when Allies, as Slovenia, increase defence spending, it provides money for capabilities we need, but also strengthens the political unity of the Alliance because it shows that we are actually taking the message of fair burden-sharing seriously.
I know that Slovenia has capabilities which have proven very capable. Last time I visited Slovenia I saw your Special Operation Forces operating. I’ve been visiting one of the centres you have on mountain warfare. And, of course, we welcome more investments of Slovenia.
Let me also add one more thing, and that is that we all realise that COVID-19 has created severe economic challenges for all Allies. At the same time, the threats we had before the pandemic, they have not gone away. They are still there. So we need to continue to invest in our security. And I think also that the pandemic has demonstrated that the military, NATO and our military forces across the Alliance, they actually have been able to provide a lot of support and help to the civilian efforts dealing with the pandemic. The military has provided transportation of equipment, of patients, setting up field hospitals, helping to disinfect public spaces and so on. So investing in military means also investing in surge capacity that can be mobilised in times of a health crisis like we are seeing now.
JANEZ JANŠA: Well, the main difference between promises which have been made during the last decade and the information I gave to the Secretary General is that those promises were mostly based on every year’s political debate about the budget. And we all know how the political environment in Slovenia has been changing during this time. And, well, in those promises, there was no stability. So this is why we are proposing now a law which will make possible to . . . to plan stable investments during the next six years, which . . . which will be safe of these political debates regarding every year’s budget passing.
As Secretary General just said, we all saw during this epidemic crisis how transport capabilities were important for bringing personal protective equipment or medical equipment on real time in separate countries because the normal logistic chains were interrupted. We missed such plan, we . . . we planned to buy from this . . . from this investment heavily. So the large part, the largest part of . . . of this money, coming from this law for the investment into defence and military during the next six years, will go for such equipment.
But we are also committed to improved standards of working for Slovenian military. And because the investment will come from . . . from this source, another … [inaudible] space will be created from ever year’s budget money, which is . . . which we are spending for the defence. And, as you know, that we have already taken some steps toward the improvement of the salaries of the military in Slovenia, or during the . . . some small investment to improve the working conditions for Slovenian soldiers.
OANA LUNGESCU: Second question, Slovenia News Agency.
PETRA VON WÜLLERSTORFF [Slovenia News Agency]: Hello, Petra von Wüllerstorff, Slovenia News Agency. First . . . first of all, a short follow-up to what you said about COVID and defence spending, Secretary General. According to the recent economic forecast, recession in Europe will be even deeper than previously foreseen. How concerned are you that this will have a severe impact on the efforts of the Allies to reach the 2 per cent target? And for Prime Minister, two points, if I may. To continue with recovery, you met President Michel this morning. What was your main message to him? I mean, what will be the main objective of Slovenia in the MMF and Recovery Fund negotiations? And do you expect agreement next week? And second point is ECB archives issue. You got the letter from the President of the Commission. Are you satisfied with it? Will the Commission withdraw the legal action as you wanted to do? And if so, under what conditions? Thank you very much.
JENS STOLTENBERG: COVID-19 has created serious economic problems. And it will impact the budget situation for all Allies. And I understand that Allies will be faced with some very difficult and demanding decisions. At the same time, the reason why we decided to invest more in defence, that reason is still there. It’s a more challenging, more unpredictable security environment. The security threats that made us decide to increase defence spending have not gone away. So they are still there.
Second, the pandemic and our response to the pandemic has proven the value of military capabilities. Across the whole Alliance, we have seen thousands of military personnel really being on the frontline, together with medical personnel, in coping with the pandemic. Hundreds of field hospitals, a lot of airlift capabilities have been essential to move equipment over long distances, but also to transport patients. And that’s something that, actually, the military knows how to do. Medical evacuation.
You need modern equipment. You need modern airlift capabilities. And not least, you need the personnel to be able to cope with these kinds of crises. So by investing in the military, you have a reserve capacity that you can mobilise when you’re faced with civilian crisis, health crisis, as the pandemic. And thirdly, I think that investing in the military could also be part of the solution. Because investing in the military is a way to stimulate the economy, is a way to strengthen your defence industry and, therefore, I’m confident that Slovenia and all the NATO Allies will continue to invest in our security.
JANEZ JANŠA: So, regarding the MMF and the Recovery Fund, Slovenia has two main objectives. One is the final decision to be as close as possible to the proposals. We all know that some compromises will be needed. But as I said, as close as possible we come during the final agreement, better not only for Slovenia, but I think for the vast majority of the EU member states. And of course, the second most important objective is to . . . to reach agreement as soon as possible, because time is money and because we all know that we are not over with threat of coronavirus epidemic. The steps we are . . . we are taking … [inaudible] are very important also to show that we are able to . . . to react and to find solutions.
Regarding the ECB archives, I’m satisfied that the European Commission is prepared to discuss this issue. What is the outcome? I cannot say before the meeting I have this afternoon. So we will see tomorrow.
OANA LUNGESCU: Thank you very much. This concludes this press point. Thank you.