Joint press conference

with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of France, Jean-Yves Le Drian, and the Minister of the Armed Forces of France, Florence Parly

  • 10 Dec. 2021 -
  • |
  • Last updated 13-Dec-2021 08:18

(As delivered)

Thank you Minister Le Drian and Minister Parly.
Cher Jean-Yves et chère Florence.

It is great to be back in Paris. Great to see you both again. 

France is a strong Ally. 
An Ally that contributes to our shared security in many different ways, with high-end capabilities.
And you invest more than two percent of GDP on defence.

Your strategic nuclear forces contribute significantly to the overall security of the Alliance. 
And you are strongly committed to the fight against terrorism, with thousands of troops in the Sahel.

You also contribute to NATO’s Baltic air policing mission.
And to NATO’s multinational battlegroup in Estonia.
One of the four battlegroups, led by Canada, Germany, the US and the UK, 
which NATO deployed to the east of our Alliance in response to Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014.   

At the same time, we set up NATO’s Very High Readiness Joint Task Force. 
And next year, the French-German Brigade will lead that Joint Task Force. 

Today, in our meeting, we addressed Russia’s renewed military build-up in and around Ukraine. This raises tensions, and undermines security in Europe.

Russia must de-escalate.
Respect Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
And return to diplomacy.

This crisis requires a political and diplomatic solution.
So we welcome the dialogue between President Biden and President Putin.
As well as the efforts to convene a new meeting in the Normandy format.
Because dialogue is even more important when tensions are high.
NATO Allies will continue to consult closely, and we will remain vigilant.

And our offer of a meaningful dialogue in the NATO-Russia Council, with Russia, still stands.

Today, we also discussed the importance of working together with like-minded partners, in a world which is increasingly dangerous and competitive.

The European Union is a strategic partner for NATO. 
And we have already raised our cooperation to unprecedented levels.

We discussed France’s priorities for its Presidency of the European Council next year.
And I count on France’s support as we develop a new joint NATO-EU declaration.

As I have reiterated many times, I strongly welcome EU efforts on defence. 
NATO has been calling for more defence spending for many years.

I welcome that all European Allies have increased their defence budgets.
But it is important that we keep up this momentum. 

So what we need is more resources, 
and better capabilities that can be used by both NATO and the EU.  
Rather than new structures which risk duplicating what we already have.

It’s also important to recognize the role played by non-EU Allies in the defence of Europe.
And the major commitment that the United States continues to make, through NATO, to defending our continent. 
In the last years, the United States has increased its military presence in Europe – and this benefits all of us.  
Our transatlantic Alliance remains the cornerstone of European security.
Because the challenges we face are too big for Europe or America to tackle them alone. 
So Ministers,
Jean-Yves, Florence.
Thank you for our excellent discussion. 
And for your strong support to our Alliance. 
And I look forward to continuing to work with both of you. 
Thank you.

Question (Politico):

[ idaudible ]

Jens Stoltenberg, NATO Secretary General:

So on Ukraine.

Ukraine is not a NATO member. So the security guarantees does not apply for Ukraine.

But at the same time, Ukraine is a highly valued partner of NATO.  And all NATO Allies support Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty. And NATO and NATO Allies also provided support.  Political support and practical support to Ukraine with capacity building, training, equipment, and in other ways.  NATO Allies and NATO support our highly valued partner.

This is also about respecting the sovereignty of a sovereign independent nation in Europe.

It has been stated again and again, starting back in the Helsinki Final Act in 1975, and many times since then, that every nation in Europe has the right to choose his own path. And that includes Ukraine. So we stand by our decisions. And nothing has changed when it comes to NATO's approach to Ukraine's membership.

It is for Ukraine to decide its own path, to decide whether it wants to aspire for membership or not. And they aspire for membership. And then this for the 30 Allies to decide when Ukraine is ready to join the Alliance. No one else. This is about really respecting the rights of every independent nation to choose his own path.

What we see now is that Russia tries to re-establish sphere of influence, where they try to control what neighbours can do.

And I myself, I'm coming from a small country bordering Russia. I'm very glad that Paris and London and Washington back in 1949, when we joined, didn't listen to Moscow saying that we should not join but actually granted Norway the sovereign right to join Alliance, because that was our wish. In the same way, we should respect the wishes of every sovereign nation in Europe.

Question (RTL):

As the French president recalled yesterday, it is important to have a strong European defence and to work side by side with NATO. So Secretary General, what do you see as being difficulties or anything incompatible and carrying out this joint work. And ministers? Are there any divergences in views among member states as to the European defence?

Jens Stoltenberg, NATO Secretary General:

First of all. I very much support and believe in strengthening the cooperation between NATO and the European Union.

And during our meeting we also discussed how we can do more together, for instance, in cyber, in space and EU has some unique capabilities that NATO does not have. So we are stronger together when we work together.

And therefore I'm also proud that over the last years we have been able to lift the NATO-EU cooperation to unprecedented levels. For instance, sharing real time information on the cyber threats. Military mobility. Also some capability developments. And also In Kosovo we see how NATO troops support the efforts of EU diplomats working hand in hand. We are together in Bosnia. And we have a NATO military or naval presence in the Aegean Sea, where we help to implement the agreement between Turkey and the European Union.

So there are many examples. We need to do more. And I welcome also the strong support in the meeting today for further strengthening the cooperation between the NATO and the European Union, including with a new joint declaration between the two EU presidents and me as the Secretary General of NATO.

Then I have, NATO supports... and we have stated also that for instance the joint, the communique from the NATO Summit in June, from the NATO Summit in Brussels, that we support EU efforts on defence. And I support that for many reasons. Also because I know that any meaningful strengthening of the efforts of European Allies is to spend more.  And actually NATO has been the organization pushing for increased European defence spending for many years. And the good news is that we see that all Allies have started, all European Allies have started to invest more in defence. And that actually provides more readiness, more capabilities, stronger defences in Europe. And that's something NATO strongly welcomes and not only welcomes but actually has been pushing for many years.  We had a decision at the NATO Summit in Wales to increase towards 2% of GDP on defence, and now more and more Allies meet that target.

What we need is more capabilities and not new structures, competing for the same capabilities.

And more readiness, more forces something we strongly welcome.

We have the NATO Response Force. France is leading that force next year, the joint task force and that shows that European Allies are really part of this joint effort.

I also welcome and support for instance, the European Defence Fund and PESCO because this is about providing capabilities.

So more spending, more capabilities is what we really welcome.  That will strengthen Europe. It will strengthen NATO. All of us. But not competing and duplicating the structures. And [not] undermining the need for the transatlantic bond.

Than let me just adding one thing.  That NATO will remain the cornerstone for defence of Europe.  80% of NATO’s defence spending comes from non EU Allies.

And it's also about geography. Norway in the north, Turkey in the south, and the west United States, Canada and UK, of course they are important for the defence of Europe altogether.

So we have to be together, North America and Europe. That's the best way to preserve peace.

Question (Les Echos):

I have a question on the June Summit. Could you tell us what are the deliverables that you are working on and where you hope to achieve results? So, there is now a new Strategic Concept being developed, to look at threats. And the Strategic Compass on the EU side. NATO will be looking at a more global approach looking at China. This was not part of the initial approach. And we saw during President Biden's visit to that there were various nuances between France and yourself.

Jens Stoltenberg, NATO Secretary General:

I look forward to the Summit in June in Madrid next year, because I think that's a unique opportunity to reinvigorate the transatlantic bond and the importance of North American and Europe standing together.

We live in uncertain, unpredictable times. And in uncertain times we need strong multilateral institutions like NATO, because when we stand together, we are safe. Together, we represent 50% of the world's GDP and 50% of the world's military might.

And we also have administration in United States now with President Biden, which is strongly committed to working together with European Allies.

Then as Minister le Drian mentioned, Jean-Yves mentioned, the Strategic Concept will be extremely important.

We have a Strategic Concept now that was agreed in 2010. It has served us well, but the world has changed. With the current strategic concept, we referred to Russia as a strategic partner. Then we see Ukraine and of course, that's not the case. China has not mentioned with a single word. And issues like the security consequences of climate change. Hybrid, cyber is hardly mentioned. And I think for instance, climate change is a huge defining issue also, when it comes to security. It's a crisis multiplier.  NATO has to address the security consequences of climate change. And I hope that it can be properly reflected in the New Strategic Concept.

Yes, I believe that NATO should have a global outlook, but we should remain an Alliance of North America and Europe.

But this region faces global threats and challenges. Space, as Minister Parly has referred to many times, that's a truly global challenge. And we saw the reckless downing of the satellite by Russia not so many weeks ago. And we see more and more challenges in space, truly global, but that matters for this region. Cyber is global. Terrorism is global. Actually, the fight against terrorism brought NATO to the borders of China in Afghanistan for 20 years. So something new, that this regions needs a global approach to address global challenges.

And then, of course, the rise of China. We don't regard China's adversary or an enemy.

We need to engage with China on issues like arms control or climate change.  But we also need to take into account the security consequence for us here by the rise of China, investing in hypersonic glide vehicles, long range … significantly increasing their nuclear arsenals. And we see them also trying to control the critical infrastructure in Europe. And we see that China's coming close to us in Africa and the Arctic. So of course, all this matters. And they don't share values. We see how they crackdown on the free independent press. They monitor and control the people in a way we've never seen before. Also using artificial intelligence and facial recognition to control their people in a way we've not seen before. All of this matters.

Therefore, NATO has to address those challenges remaining a regional Alliance of North America and Europe.

The last thing I'll mention is that this Summit takes place in my Madrid, which is in the Southern part of the Alliance. And we should also look into if NATO can do more addressing the threats and the challenges emanating from the South.

NATO has the capabilities and capacities, we have the structures, tried and tested structures, to provide support to France and all the other NATO Allies, which are fighting terrorism in the Sahel. 

I don't believe that NATO should have a combat role. But NATO has the possibilities to provide more support, logistical, transport, supplies, capacity building, if so wished by NATO Allies, we could provide more support. 

And I know that Spain - being the host of the Summit - is actually looking into if there are some more NATO could do to help addressing the challenges emanating from the South.