Remarks by NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen

at the joint meeting of the European Parliament’s Committee on Foreign Affairs and Subcommittee on Security and Defence plus the chairpersons of defence and foreign affairs committees of national parliaments

  • 06 May. 2013
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  • Last updated: 06 May. 2013 15:29

Thank you very much Mr. Provera for that kind introduction.

It is really a great pleasure for me to once again meet members of the two committees and chairpersons from the foreign relations and defence Committees of national parliaments.

We meet regularly, actually, so I am glad to see many familiar faces, and I am looking forward to another lively discussion.  So let me make just a few points.

I am fully committed to a strong and open Europe.  I firmly believe that Europe must have a strong common security and defence policy.  And I am pleased that there will be a European Council dedicated to security and defence next December.  It will actually be the first time since the start of the global financial crisis that Heads of State and Government focus on this vital dimension of our strong and open Europe.

But let me also be frank. If European nations do not make a firm commitment to invest in security and defence, then all talk about a strengthened European defence and security policy will just be hot air.  And it won’t bring us any closer to the strong and open Europe that we all want.

So as we look ahead to December, we should all keep three things firmly in mind.

First, we Europeans must understand that soft power alone is really no power at all.  Without hard capabilities to back up its diplomacy, Europe will lack credibility and influence.  It will risk being a global spectator, rather than the powerful global actor that it can be – and should be.

Our shared experience in the Western Balkans is a case in point.  Restoring stability there has required a mix of hard and soft power.  We saw this with the conclusion of the recent agreement between Belgrade and Pristina.  The agreement was brokered by the European Union – and I commend Cathy Ashton for her excellent work. But both parties wanted assurance that NATO would guarantee the security to implement the agreement. 

Second, a continuing decline in European defence and European defence budgets will inevitably result in a declining role for our continent on the global stage.  And Europe will be unable to participate in crisis management.  The only way to avoid this is by holding the line on defence spending. To stop the cuts. And to start reinvesting in security as soon as our economies recover.

Meanwhile, we need to make better use of what we have.  To do more together as Europeans – within the European Union and within NATO - to deliver the critical defence capabilities that are too expensive for any individual country to deliver alone.

Finally, having the right capabilities is important.  But it is not enough.  We must also have the political will to use them. To deal with security challenges on Europe’s doorstep. To help manage crises further away that might affect us here at home.  And to better share the security burden with our North American Allies. 

For this to happen, European nations need to develop a truly global perspective.  We must not become absorbed by our domestic, economic woes. We must look outwards, not inwards. And we need Europe and North America to talk more regularly, more openly, and more frankly. Within the unique transatlantic forum that is NATO. And between NATO and the European Union.

So in conclusion, the European Council in December should showcase a Europe that is both able to act, and willing to act. And it should encourage the European Union and NATO to do more together.  To consult more.  Coordinate more.  And cooperate more.

To get us there will require strong political resolve – including here in this house, as well as in national parliaments.  I am confident that we can rise to the challenge.  Because, we owe it to our tax-payers -- and voters -- to give them the best security that money can buy.

And with that as an introduction, I look very much forward to a stimulating discussion this afternoon.