Joint press conference

by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, President of the European Council Charles Michel and President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen

  • 10 Jan. 2023 -
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  • Last updated: 10 Jan. 2023 13:17

(As delivered)

Good morning.
President von der Leyen,
dear Ursula,
President Michel,
dear Charles,

Welcome to both of you. It is great to see you back at NATO headquarters and a very warm welcome to both of you.
This is a great way of starting the New Year.

We have just signed the third NATO-EU joint declaration.
To further advance the strategic partnership between NATO and the European Union.  
This is more important than ever.

Almost a year ago, hours after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on the 24 February, the three of us met together here at the NATO Headquarters.
President Putin wanted to take Ukraine in a few days.
And to divide us.

On both counts, he has clearly failed.

Russian troops have been pushed back by the brave Ukrainian forces.
And NATO and the European Union have stood united in support of Ukraine.

The regime in Moscow wants a different Europe.
It wants to control its neighbours.
And it sees democracy and freedom as a threat.
This will have long-lasting consequences for our security.

So we must continue to strengthen the vital transatlantic bond in NATO.
We must continue to strengthen the partnership between NATO and the European Union.
And we must further strengthen our support to Ukraine. 

In a world of growing strategic competition, authoritarian actors challenge our interests, values and democratic principles.
Through military, but also political, economic, and technological means.

China’s growing assertiveness and policies present challenges that we need to address.

Persistent conflict and instability in our neighbourhood undermine our security.
And provide fertile ground for both strategic competitors and terrorist groups.

Our declaration makes clear that NATO remains the foundation of our collective defence and remains essential for Euro-Atlantic security.

It also recognises the value of a more capable European defence that contributes positively to our security and is complementary to, and interoperable with, NATO.

Today’s declaration builds on the previous two, from 2016 and 2018.
Based on these declarations, we have developed concrete actions.
And we have reached unprecedented progress in our cooperation.

We are determined to take the partnership between NATO and the European Union to the next level.

To address in particular the growing geostrategic competition, resilience issues, and the protection of critical infrastructures.  As well as emerging and disruptive technologies, space, the security implications of climate change, foreign interference and information manipulation.
Our partnership will become even more important once Finland and Sweden become full NATO members.

With their accession, NATO will be protecting 96% of the citizens in the European Union.  
And a higher share of its territory than ever before.

We encourage the fullest possible involvement of the NATO Allies that are not members of the EU in its initiatives.
And we encourage the fullest possible involvement of EU members that are not part of the Alliance in its initiatives.

So dear Ursula, dear Charles,
Thank you for your personal commitment and your leadership in taking our cooperation forward.

So then, I pass the floor to you, President Michel.

NATO Spokesperson Oana Lungescu: We'll start with Financial Times.

Financial Times: Thank you so much. Henry Ford, Financial Times. A question for President Michel. Last … In October 2021, you said that 2022 would be the year of European defence. You said there would be strengthening of strategic autonomy to reduce reliance on others. Today, you've just signed a document that says stronger European armies are complementary to NATO as the leader in that. Is true strategic autonomy dead or has it just been put on the shelf for a few more years?

And if I may a question for the Secretary General. We've heard from the Swedes and the Finns that they think they've done enough, and Turkey should not ask for more. Do you agree? Does Turkey have a right to ask for more steps or has Sweden and Finland completely done all they can for membership? Thank you.

President of the European Council, Mr. Charles Michel: [answers in French]

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg: On Finland and Sweden on membership of NATO, in NATO. I'm confident that the accession process will be finalized and that and that all NATO Allies will ratify the accession protocols in their parliaments. And that also goes for Türkiye. But let me start by just reminding you all about what has happened so far. This has been so far the quickest accession process in NATO's modern history. We have to remember that normally accession processes into NATO take years. Finland and Sweden applied in May last year. Already in July, all 30 Allies, including Türkiye, decided to invite Finland and Sweden to become full members of NATO.  and all 30 Allies also signed the accession protocols and so far 28 out of 30 Allies have already ratified. This is quicker than ever before in NATO's modern history.

Then, what paved the way for this historic decision was the agreement between Türkiye, Finland and Sweden. That was also signed on the margins of the NATO Summit in Madrid in July, where they agreed to work more closely together. Finland and Sweden agree to lift restrictions on arms exports, that has already been done. And they also agreed to work more closely in the fight against terrorism, that is also taking place. They have established a permanent mechanism where they exchange more information intelligence and they are working more closely in in how to address terrorist threats. Türkiye has legitimate security concerns. No NATO Ally has suffered more terrorist attacks than Türkiye. And therefore, it is something we should welcome that the NATO Allies, Finland and Sweden are working more closely on these issues.

And then let me add one more thing, and that is that we have to understand that Finland and Sweden, they are in a very different place now, compared to where they were before they applied for a NATO membership. Since they applied, several NATO Allies, including the United States, have agreed bilateral security arrangements, security assurances for Finland and Sweden. NATO has increased its presence in the region, and as invitees, Finland and Sweden are now participating in NATO's meetings, ministerial meetings ambassadorial meetings, meetings of different NATO committees and Finland and Sweden are more and more integrated into NATO's military structures. So it's inconceivable that Finland and Sweden will face any military threats without NATO reacting to that. So I'm saying that I of course see the importance of finalising the accession process with the ratification in both the Hungarian and the Turkish parliament. But I'm also saying that I'm confident that will happen and that we have already moved a very long way in a short time with Finland and Sweden.

President of the European Commission, Mrs. Ursula von der Leyen: A few words on the topic of strategic autonomy. A lot has happened in the last year. And President Michel is right when he said that at the beginning of the year. Because strategic autonomy is not only limited to defence, it includes of course defence. And strategic autonomy does not say that you do not cooperate. You cooperate with like-minded partners. And the fields in which we have made a lot of progress, the first one is very well known. And this is the vaccine production. So I don't have to explain that, but a big step forward on that we've done during the pandemic. The second field indeed is or was our toxic dependency on Russian fossil fuels. We have basically completely gotten rid of it during this year, coal completely. We have winded down Russian oil and more than 80% of the Russian gas has been cut. We have been able and that’s strategic autonomy to diversify our supply chains to trusted and like-minded partners.

And of course, to ramp up the own production of energy. We have doubled the deployment of additional renewable energy in the European Union and this is independence. Renewable energy is not only clean and affordable, but independence.

Then we have been working, because we saw a growing dependency on semiconductors, on the Chips Act - also a success story. We are preparing the Raw Materials Act because we see the same challenge what the supply of raw material is concerned, too much focus on one region of the world. And we have developed Global Gateway. Also to build up these partnerships with like-minded on the whole energy topic for example, with the global south.

So a lot has happened in the topic of strategic autonomy. Final point: defence. We are working now with the Member States through a task force jointly with the EEAS and the European Defence Agency to figure out what are the needs for the replenishment of the stocks. And what does the industry need to cater for it because it takes two here - not only the demand, but also of course, the supply side and this is another step forward in organizing and harmonizing European common defence answer.

NATO Spokesperson Oana Lungescu: Go to the Ukrainian news agency “Ukrinform”.

Ukrainian News Agency: Thank you for the floor [inaudible]. News agency of Ukraine. I want to mention that Ukrainians [are] grateful very much to both organization both to EU and NATO practical solidarity. My question is that both organization now have the common problem of depletion of military stocks, because nobody expected the war in Ukraine of such a scale. My question is, what is the practical cooperation? Between NATO and EU in filling that gap? And the second part of the question: As the Russians now mobilise reservists and preparing some kind of a future advance, will EU and NATO be able to be in time and prepared to assist Ukraine in this battle, which could be decisive? Thank you.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg: Maybe I could start by saying that you are right that NATO Allies and EU members have depleted their stocks to provide support to Ukraine and that has been the right thing to do. Because this is also about our security. And of course we need to use our capabilities, our stocks, our ammunition, to support Ukraine. And I also have been asked, and I've told NATO Allies that if they have to choose between meeting all the NATO guidelines on stocks on the capabilities or to support Ukraine, it's more important to support Ukraine. And therefore, we have been able to provide an unprecedented level of support to Ukraine over many months. But of course, when we are depleting our stocks, there is only one long term solution to that and that is to produce more. And that's also reason why NATO Defence Ministers took decisions to increase our stockpiles of munitions and equipment when they met last fall.

We have also a long standing defence planning process and capability targets for each and every Ally including stocks and ammunition and we are revising them to ensure that we have enough stocks both to protect our own territory but also to provide support for Ukraine. And we are also working with the European Union, we had Commissioner Breton here just before Christmas, and we are on the staff level looking into how we can coordinate our efforts. And because this is about ramping up production, of course in EU-NATO Allies, but also in Allies that are not members of the European Union. And we have engaged directly with the industry and they are now ramping up production. The aim is of course, to ensure that we can continue and also strengthen our support to Ukraine, because we have seen that Russia has suffered big losses in Ukraine, due to the brave Ukrainian soldiers and their professionalism and the dedication of the Ukrainian Armed Forces.

But we should not underestimate Russia. They are mobilising more troops, they are working hard to acquire more equipment, more ammunition, and they have shown willingness to actually suffer but to continue the war. And there is no indication that President Putin has changed the overall aim of his brutal war against Ukraine. So we need to be prepared for the long haul, we need to continue to support Ukraine and again, it is extremely important the message that we're sending today with the Declaration, with the two Presidents who are present with me, that we stand united, NATO and the European Union in our support to Ukraine.

NATO Spokesperson Oana Lungescu: We are running out of time, but we'll take one, third question, which is DPA.

DPA: Thank you, Ansgar Haase, German Press Agency, DPA. A quick question to all of you on the ongoing discussions on weapon deliveries to Ukraine. Do you support member states that are considering sending western main battle tanks like the Leopard 2 or the Challenger 2 to Ukraine, or do you feel that there's a huge risk of escalation? Thank you.

President of the European Commission, Mrs. Ursula von der Leyen: I have said many times since the beginning of Russia's invasion in Ukraine that I think that Ukraine should got get all the necessary military equipment they need and they can handle to defend their homeland. And this means of course, advanced air defence systems, but also other types of advanced military equipment, as long as it is necessary to defend Ukraine because they also defend the basic principles of the UN Charter of the Fundamental Rights and of the international law. And I've said that at the very beginning of Russia's war, and I have still this position, of course.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg: Let me just add that what we have seen is that we NATO Allies, EU members, have provided Ukraine also with advanced weapon systems since the war started, and I welcome the new announcements just over the last days by the United States, Germany, France to also provide new types of armoured vehicles, infantry fighting vehicles and other types of armour to Ukraine. This is important, there is a constant consultation within the Alliance between the NATO Allies but also with Ukraine. We'll meet next week in Ramstein in the US led the Contact Group to provide support to Ukraine and there will meet with the Ukrainian defence minister to discuss exactly what types of weapons are needed and how can Allies provide those weapons.

So in addition to armour, we have also provided advanced air defence systems as President von der Leyen just referred to, and also long range missiles with the HIMARS and all these systems are making a huge difference on the battlefield every day. I welcome the focus on systems but I think we need to also realize that this is not only about adding more systems, more platforms, more weapons, but also ensuring that the platforms, the weapons we have already provided, are working as they should, meaning that we also need to ensure that we provide the necessary ammunition, the spare parts, the training, the maintenance of the systems, which are already provided. And therefore yes, it is important to address what new systems do we need to provide to Ukraine, but also to ensure that all the systems which are already there, are working as they should.

President of the European Council, Mr. Charles Michel: There is an aggressor, that is the Kremlin and there is a victim, that is the people of Ukraine. And I'm very pleased that in the recent weeks and months following the start of the war, the member states were able to deliver more and more military equipment to Ukraine. And like Ursula said, I fully support the same approach and the European Council many times repeated the call on more military support for Ukrainians to make sure that they will be able to defend [inaudible] because we know that they are fighting for the future, but they are also fighting for our common values.

NATO Spokesperson Oana Lungescu: Thank you very much. I’m very sorry we can’t take all the questions that we have but this concludes this press conference.