NATO’s views on European Defence

Remarks by NATO Deputy Secretary General Mircea Geoană at the European Defence Agency’s Annual Conference

  • 04 Dec. 2020 -
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  • Last updated 14-Dec-2020 08:29

(As delivered)

Thank you and good morning, no storm can really break a good connection between NATO and the EU.

And thank you for inviting me, it was a pleasure to listen to Vice President Borrell. Also I would like to thank Jiri Šedivý, the Chief Executive of EDA for inviting me and inviting NATO to this Annual Conference of the European Defence Agency.

Because Sustaining European defence – the topic of the conference – is of great importance to Europe and European security.

It is also bears a huge importance for us in NATO because European defence is inextricably linked to transatlantic defence and for us in NATO, the other side of the city, European defence is the core business that we have to achieve.

And we should never forget that what really bonds our two organisations are our common values.

And I think this is another incentive for us to continue to strengthen our strategic partnership between NATO and the EU.

We have done very good work in recent years, the level of NATO-EU cooperation has reached unprecedented levels.

We are working together on so many issues. From improving military mobility and countering hybrid and cyber threats, countering disinformation together, we’ve done this during the pandemic very successfully, to coordinating our exercises or improving our strategic communications.

With the pandemic, that we are still in the eye of the storm, we have seen our cooperation accelerate.

I mentioned disinformation and countering propaganda, but also resilience has become one of the topics that our two organisations are looking together, as you know NATO has developed over the last five years important baseline requirements for resilience and we welcome the fact that European Commission, European Union is also looking into this.

I think together we can have a comprehensive approach to resilience which is becoming, you know, one of the lessons learned of this pandemic.

Also we are working hand-in-hand to develop the right and the best defence capabilities. We have achieved recent results.

I listened to High Representative Josep Borrell mentioning the Air-to-Air Refuelling capability in Europe.

This is one of the very specific projects that we have done together.

The EDA, the Organisation for Joint Armament Cooperation, and the NATO Support and Procurement Agency, we work together in developing a European Multinational Multi-Role Tanker Transport Fleet.

Speaking of time and the pressure of time and the urgency of the geopolitical evolutions we have to say that this was done relatively fast in only eight years since we started the project the first three aircraft of the Tanker Transport Fleet were delivered this year.

I think this is one of the positive examples that should serve as a guide for further work down the road.

The remaining six aircraft of this Fleet will be delivered by the end of 2024, with an option for two additional aircraft in the future.

And Luxembourg’s recent addition of 1000 flight hours to its MRTT commitment, made the firm acquisition of a sixth aircraft possible. 

And this is indeed a remarkable, practical achievement what we can do successfully together and shows the dynamic multilateral cooperation in support of the delivery of a major capability.

But there are other interesting examples of defence and technological cooperation and industrial cooperation between NATO and the EU.

But there is still more we can do together. We are speaking of the threats that we are facing together, and also the issue of strategic culture, and the issue of threat perception.

Because in the end this is what triggers national responses, be for Allied nations or for European Union member states, my country Romania is both – NATO and EU country.

So that’s why sometimes we see the necessity for us to compare the kind of threat we perceive and also to make sure that there is a more homogeneous, if you want, understanding of the threats we have faced, all of us, in Europe in this new era of global competition.

Cyber is one of the examples that the EU has developed tremendous instruments and a specific toolbox.

NATO is also very advanced in cyber. We have declared five years ago, at the Warsaw NATO summit, that cyber is an operational domain.

This is a topic which is so dominant and this is also something which is a little bit beyond traditional defence and deterrence.

This is where we should, and we are, and we should work even closer together.

Emerging and disruptive technologies, this is something that the NATO leaders in London, when they last met in December 2019, they instructed us and we are delivering as we speak an Emerging and Disruptive Technology Implementation Roadmap.

I’m chairing the Innovation Board in NATO, we do tremendous work there.

I think we can do and should do more when it comes to new technologies and the way in which these technologies are affecting, not only defence and security, but also the way of life.

Because the definition of security is becoming far more multifaceted.

The line between traditional threats and non-traditional threats is becoming more blurred.

So this is where we have to work together. We are, as democratic nations, as the political West, if you want, we are in a way obliged to work together.

Of course, keeping our specificities, keeping our specific mandates and also our specific marching orders that are coming from each of the two organisations.

Artificial intelligence, quantum computing, biotechnology, human enhancement – these are topics that are in a turbulent transformation and they are impacting our security.

We have to work and do things closer together.

Autonomous systems – this is something which is here already and many of the Allied nations and many of you are looking into this as we speak.

The last, let’s say, operational domain in NATO that we have declared in London in 2019 is space.

Recently, NATO has established in Ramstein in Germany a space subcommand for our military operations and the issue that our Air Force is looking into.

And we have decided to establish in Toulouse in France another big hub of innovation and defence and civilian cooperation on space.

A center of excellence of NATO in Toulouse so Ramstein in Germany, Toulouse in France, the European Union has a space agency.

I think we can do things together more.

And there is something that I think we have to be very clear, and if you want, blunt.
Global competition is intensifying.

The rise of China, the way in which Russia is looking at things.

The way in which terrorism is not going away.

The threats that we have from great power competition and also from technological and more non-state actors, threats are very very important.

I remember talking about, in NATO, talking about resilience and telecommunications.

I have to say that what Thierry Breton and the Commission have done in terms of the toolbox for 5G, was a very important instrument, complementary to the standard-setting the NATO is establishing, including on 5G.

And we should not fool ourselves – China is becoming a dominant global player.

And we have to coordinate the way in which our two organisations are looking into China and I’m very grateful for Josep Borrell for attending and contributing to the NATO foreign ministers just two days ago, together with our partners in Sweden and Finland and our friends and partners from Australia on this very important topic.

We should keep our specificities, there’s a difference in mandate between NATO and the EU, that’s the reality. But I think in a strategic sense we have to look together into the rise of China and also these issues.

Speaking of Russia, they have developed, and they are developing as we speak, super advanced missile systems that are posing a threat to all of us and mainly to European territory.
And this is something that we have to work together because this is not something that we should try take lightly.

So this is why keeping NATO in EU, keeping North America and Europe in sync.
We have a new incoming administration.

We are welcoming the propositions that are coming from the other side of the city in engaging the new administration.

We are trying to do the same.

We hope to have a summit of NATO early 2021.

I think this moment is one that should encourage us to do an even better job together and realign, resyncronise, if you want.

Again with specificities that should be reflected and respected in how we bring security to Europe and how we can face with global competition in the 21st century.

Also when it comes to terrorism, to nuclear proliferation, to climate disruptions and even, God forbid, other kind of pandemics down the road.

We have to make sure that we put all our instruments together.

Separately, whenever there’s a need, but together, when there is a necessity because this is how we are stronger.

And to tell you one reality. I’m coming from Romania, we’re both in NATO and in EU. We have just military and one defence budget in our nation that are both NATO and EU.


So sometimes you have to make sure that what we do and we commit in NATO or in the EU in the other side of the city is also, you know, strategically coherent because we just cannot ask to have two separate national defence and strategic identities and cultures when it comes to our organisations.

So this is why I personally encourage, Jens Stoltenberg is encouraging, a very close and complimentary cooperation between NATO and the EU.

It is good that EU is becoming more ambitious on defence and security.

This is good news.

It is not only a burden sharing in terms of mathematics, if you want, about defence spending.
This talks about the quality of investment in our defence.

We’re still very vulnerable and the way in which international security is developing is putting our securities and our national interest, our organisations to tremendous stress.

And this is where I think we have to do much more together.

Brexit is happening as we speak with all the complexities of this thing but this is also shifting our balance.

Now, as we speak in defence spending, I’m not giving these numbers for any other reason, just to mention like Josep Borrell has done that formidable task ahead of us, today 80% of defence spending in NATO is done outside of the EU countries.

90% of the population of the EU is also population of NATO.

So we are, in a way, obliged to work together.

And if there is evolution like NATO 2030, the potential revisiting of our Strategic Concept in the next period of time, and as EU, naturally and positively is looking through his strategic compass and his vision about the future, I think we have to make sure that we work together and we keep the synergies in place.

I’m a great proponent of strategic partnership between NATO and the EU.

I think that if there will be summits and US, EU and NATO high-level meetings next year, we have to think how can we really inject a new generation of fresh ideas in what we do together.

Because as we enter in this very turbulent period of human history, which is the beginning of a very complicated period, we need each other more than ever.

And we need to do more, we need to do better.

And we have to make sure that we keep the integrity of our values and our interest intact in a period which is complicated.

So good with the work. No storm in Brussels can derail this excellent cooperation that we have.

And count on me and all my colleagues for engaging in as many topics as the European Union, European Commission, EDA, would deem important for our cooperation in Europe.

And good luck with the conference!