Press point

with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and the President of the European Parliament, Roberta Metsola

  • 28 Apr. 2022 -
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  • Last updated: 28 Apr. 2022 10:56

(As delivered)

Thank you so much Madame President Metsola,

It's good to see you. Good to be here.

I have been in the European Parliament many many times but this is the first time I meet with this exclusive group of Presidents, so the different political parties, so I look forward to meeting all of them.

And especially now as we see that the European Union and NATO we stand together in solidarity with Ukraine, the European Union has imposed unprecedented sanctions, is providing economic support to Ukraine.

NATO allies have also stepped up their support to Ukraine and up to date NATO allies have pledged and provided at least 8 billion US dollars in military support to Ukraine. And we see the importance of further stepping up our support to Ukraine.

So, NATO-EU cooperation has always been important, but especially now when our core values, democracy, the rule of law, the respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, is challenged by the brutal Russian invasion of Ukraine. It's even more important that the European Union and NATO stands together. So thank you so much.

Question 1. 
Florian Neuhann, ZDF. First question to President Metsola. Since this is the first time you invite Mr. Stoltenberg to the Conference of Presidents. What is your personal message to him and what do you expect from NATO? Also with your background of being in Kyiv a couple of weeks ago. And the question to you Secretary General, there are two states, partner states of NATO, Sweden and Finland who might join the NATO. How fast would this go? How fast would the Alliance take in those new members if they want to join? Thank you.

President of the European Parliament Roberta Metsola
First of all, this will be a very open and frank exchange. With questions ranging from all the leaders of the political groups but which also will reflect the unprecedented unity that we have seen in this Parliament since the 24th of February and the brutal invasion by Russia of Ukraine. This parliament in all its resolutions has been resolute. And following on also from my discussions with President Zelensky just over three weeks ago, that there was need for more military support that there was need for more effective assistance to Ukraine. That is something that we have called for, we will continue to call for further sanctions and we will continue to call for the enforcement of the current packages of sanctions in a better way and more effective way. This we will continue also to discuss in Strasbourg next week. But in our case, this parliament will continue to build on the momentum of this again, unprecedented coordination that we have which is extremely important because we share the fundamental values and we share our defence if you can say that, of Ukraine's rights to defend itself.

NATO Secretary General 
It is of course for Finland and Sweden to decide whether they would like to apply for membership in NATO or not. But if they decide to apply, Finland and Sweden will be welcomed with open arms to NATO. Finland and Sweden are our closest partners. They are strong and mature democracies, EU members, and we have worked with Finland and Sweden for many, many years. We know that their armed forces meet NATO standards. are interoperable with NATO forces, we train together, we exercise together, and we have also worked together with Finland, Sweden in many different missions and operations. So if they apply, they will be welcomed and I also expect the process to be quick and that they can then join NATO after the formal process has been finalised.

Question 2. 
From the Swedish News Agency TT, in Sweden and Finland there is a big discussion on what kind of guarantees NATO can give Sweden and Finland during the negotiation, before becoming members if applying, what kind of help and how fast would that possible help go? And for the President, if Sweden and Finland joins, the European Union will be almost completely inside NATO except for four countries. How do you see this? What is that having for consequences?

NATO Secretary General 
The reality is that Finland and Sweden are already very close to NATO. And we work together, we operate together, we exercise together. And as soon as we take the decision to invite them, that will send a strong political message that the security of Finland and Sweden matters for all NATO allies. And then I'm also certain that we will be able to find arrangements for that interim period between Finland and Sweden applies and until the formal ratification is finalised in all 30 Parliament's so I'm confident that there are ways to bridge that interim period in a way which is good enough and works for both Finland and Sweden.

President of the European Parliament 
In these days in the European Parliament, we're also discussing how we can truly establish a proper Defence Union. This has long been called for, this would mean also that member states can feel secure. We have article 42.7 of the treaty that would cover also those members that are not members of NATO, but again, here we are talking about an alliance, and shared aims, and core values. And when we look at the discussion that is taking place in Finland and in Sweden and the long term alliance and partnership with NATO, but also in terms of military relevance and security that could be offered also in the Baltic and Northern Europe area that is something also that in Europe and in the European Union, we can look at in terms of even further integration of mutual protection.

Question 3. 
[Inaudible] Are we going to discuss relationships with partners, especially with Georgia and Moldova, as they are also under pressure from Russia? And Madam President, what is your personal message to Georgian people, as we're waiting in June, for a political decision to receive candidate status of this organisation, thank you so much.

President of the European Parliament 
Well thank you for this question. This parliament has always welcomed any country that looks to Europe as its home, that that should be the step that is taken. So we were the institution to welcome the application from all three countries. We understand the difficulties, and the challenges, and the threats that those countries are under. In fact, we have invited President Maia Sandu to address the European Parliament in a forthcoming plenary session, and she has accepted that invitation. And we are also in constant contact with our Georgian partners and also representatives of the Georgian parliament in order to make sure that when that step happens, that you mentioned, we are ready to make our commitment and this parliament has never shied away from it.

NATO Secretary General 
We can just add that, of course, the brutal invasion of Ukraine demonstrates the need for NATO to provide support to those countries in Europe that are not members of NATO and neither members of the European Union as Moldova and Georgia. This is about practical support, this is about political support. And Georgia is a very highly valued partner, and also in close cooperation with the European Union. We are looking into what we can do more to work even closer with our close partners in the eastern part of Europe. Now, let me also add to the question about Finland and Sweden that I actually speak to the Finnish President later on today, and expect that we will both address the issue of a potential Finnish application for NATO membership, but also the need to find arrangements in this interim period. So there is no uncertainty about Finland and Sweden's right to choose their own path, because this is fundamentally about the right of every nation in Europe to decide its own future. So when Russia tries in a way to threaten to intimidate Finland and Sweden from not applying, it just demonstrates how Russia is not respecting the basic rights of every nation to choose his own path. So we are in dialogue with Finland and Sweden. And it's their decision, but if they decide to apply, Finland and Sweden will be warmly welcomed and expect the process to go quickly.

President of the European Parliament 
Thank you very much.

NATO Secretary General 
Thank you.