Opening remarks

by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Latvia, Edgars Rinkēvičs at the meeting of the North Atlantic Council

  • 30 Nov. 2021 -
  • |
  • Last updated: 30 Nov. 2021 16:21

(As delivered)

Good afternoon to all.
Welcome to this Ministerial Meeting.

Let me start by thanking you, Edgars, for hosting us here in Riga. It is really a pleasure to be back in Latvia and to meet with all of you.

Today, we will address the build-up of Russian forces close to Ukraine’s borders.
We call on Russia to be transparent, reduce tensions and de-escalate.

We will also address the troubling developments on the border between Belarus and NATO Allies Poland, Latvia and Lithuania.
NATO condemns the use of vulnerable people by the Lukashenko regime to put pressure on neighbouring countries.

Lastly, we will discuss how we can reinvigorate NATO’s approach to arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation. This makes us all safer.  

And let me now ask you, Edgars, to say a few words of welcome.

So please, you have the floor.

Edgars Rinkēvičs [Minister of Foreign Affairs of Latvia]:

Thank you very much, Secretary General.
Thank you very much, Jens.

Dear colleagues,
Dear friends,
Very warm welcome in a very snowy Riga.

I'm very delighted that we can have this meeting of Foreign Ministers almost exactly 15 years after Riga hosted Heads of State and Government of NATO.

Jens, you were also attending this meeting in your capacity as the Prime Minister of Norway.

I think there are only two changes.
One is your hair is dark, was darker then, and also the world was not as challenging place as it is today.
But I also want to say that if you look in those 15 years, then the major topic that was discussed then was Afghanistan.

And there was a very famous slogan that if NATO doesn't go out of area then it goes out of business.
So much as you said this morning, we are out of area but we are definitely having more business than ever before.

And I do believe that we are going to discuss the launch of the new Strategic Concept of the Alliance.
And it's very symbolic that we are starting this process here, in the northeast corner of Alliance.
And we should finish in Madrid, in southwest part of the Alliance.

We attach importance to all the challenges that they have.
From hybrid to regional, and also to emerging challenges in the Indo-Pacific region, and also globally.

I also believe that it is very symbolic that this meeting takes place in this part of NATO, and this part of Europe, for three reasons.

Two and a half years ago, when I was suggesting to have this meeting to Secretary General, I was saying that we want to show to all nations that are participating in eFP and Baltic air policing, how great your soldiers and you are doing here.
And for that we are very thankful.

So to some extent, this meeting is also the words of gratitude.

Another reason was defence spending.
I think that it is very important that all our concepts, all our dreams and ideas are also appropriately resourced.
And this is the country, Latvia, is spending more than 2%.

But there is now the third reason.
Unfortunately, we see that also the regional challenges, from the hybrid warfare, launched by Lukashenko regime against NATO Allies including Latvia, Poland, and Lithuania, also the situation in and around Ukraine requires our immediate reaction and attention.

We are also going to have a good discussion with our Black Sea partners.
We are also going to discuss issues with our EU partners.

And I do hope that this meeting is actually going into the history as the meeting where we have been united, we have been efficient, and we have been able to reach agreement and to save the world from many of calamities.

So with that, I really thank all of you for being here in Riga.

I very much look forward to very fruitful discussions.
And now I have to give the floor back to the Secretary General.

NATO Secretary General:

Thank you so much, Edgars.
And sometimes I wonder why we take all these family photos.
But now I understand that's for you to compare my hair.

And it was darker in 2006. That's true.

Then, this ends the public part of the meeting.
So then I thank the media for joining us at the beginning of the meeting.
And we will continue in just a moment.

So many thanks to the free and independent press joining us at the beginning of the meeting.