by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the joint press point with the Prime Minister of Portugal, Antonio Costa

  • 10 Dec. 2020 -
  • |
  • Last updated 14-Dec-2020 08:34

(As delivered)

Prime Minister Costa,
Dear António,

Welcome back to NATO Headquarters.

It's great to have you here and thank you for your strong personal commitment to NATO.

And for your leadership in these difficult times.

Portugal has been an important Ally since NATO's founding, contributing to our shared security and to our collective defence in many different ways.

Portugal regularly contribute jets to our air policing missions and ships to our maritime operations.

You also take part in our multinational brigade in Romania.

And Portugal hosts a number of different NATO facilities, including our cutting-edge cyber academy.

Today we have discussed our fight against international terrorism. 

In Afghanistan, your troops have contributed for many years to ensure the country can never again become a safe haven for international terrorists.

Afghanistan now faces a historic opportunity for peace, and NATO strongly supports the Afghan peace process.

In the coming months, we will face difficult decisions about our future presence in the country.

But whatever we decide, we must do so in a coordinated and orderly way.

Portugal also contributes to NATO's training mission in Iraq.

Strengthening local forces, so that they can ensure that ISIS does not come back.  Because prevention is better than intervention.


We also discussed the situation in the Eastern Mediterranean.

The situation is difficult. But we have worked here at NATO to establish a deconfliction mechanism between Turkey and Greece.

I remain committed to strengthening this mechanism. It can create the conditions for talks to resolve the underlying dispute.

Finally, we discussed next year's NATO Summit where I will present the results of the NATO 2030 project and my recommendations to Leaders to future-proof our Alliance.

I would like to congratulate Portugal on your upcoming EU Presidency.

And I welcome that you have identified strengthening transatlantic relations as one of your priorities.

Because the challenges we face today are too great for any nation or organisation to deal with alone.

And the transatlantic bond remains vital to the security of Europe.

So once again, Antonio, welcome.

It's great to have you here and I look forward to continuing working with you.

Also in your new responsibility as Prime Minister of the country that has the EU presidency, so welcome.

[Remarks by Antonio Costa, Prime Minister of Portugal]


Piers Cazalet (NATO Deputy Spokesperson):  Unfortunately we cannot have journalists in the building for coronavirus restrictions, but we have a couple of messages which have been sent to us by journalists to ask some questions. The first, I've put two questions together one from Rita Siza from PUBLICO Portugal, and one from Duarte Valente from RTP Portugal. And this is addressed to both the Secretary General and the Prime Minister: What are your expectations regarding the new US administration that will be inaugurated in January, in terms of the relationship with NATO and allies. Are you hoping for a less critical, maybe more compromising approach, from the United States on issues such as Burden Sharing and Joint Missions? And did you discuss any plans for an upcoming Biden visit to Brussels?

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg: Well first of all, I am looking forward to working with President Elect Joe Biden when he becomes President, because I know that he knows NATO very well through his experience as Vice President and also as Chairman of the Foreign Relations ommittee in the US Senate he's a strong supporter of the transatlantic bond. And when I talked to him after elections, he also of course, once again, reiterated his strong support for NATO and for working with all allies. NATO is the only place where North America and Europe meet every day, and that's the platform, the organization which has provided security for all allies for now more than seven decades. I think it's extremely important that we continue to strengthen the transatlantic bond. And I also, of course, expect allies to continue to live up to their commitments when it comes to burden sharing, defence expenditure. I welcome that Portugal has increased investments in defence, as other allies have done. And I expect of course allies to continue to invest in our security because we live in a more challenging and difficult security environment. I also strongly believe that we need stronger EU efforts on defence, and I welcome the EU efforts on increased defence spending, developing new capabilities and all that will also help to strengthen NATO, but EU cannot replace NATO. 80% of NATO's defence expenditure comes from non-EU allies and any attempt to divide Europe from North America will not only weaken NATO but it will also divide Europe, so we need to stand together as a transatlantic community I don't believe in Europe alone, I don't believe in US alone, I believe in US, North America and Europe together.

Antonio Costa, Prime Minister of Portugal: [Interpretation not available]

Piers Cazalet (NATO Deputy Spokesperson): Now we have a question from Ansgar Haase from the German news agency DPA. For both Secretary General and the Prime Minister again: the EU will today decide on possible restrictive measures against Turkish individuals and companies responsible for drilling in the contested waters in the Mediterranean. Do you think sanctions are the right way to address problems that the EU has with a NATO country? And could these sanctions make cooperation between NATO and the EU more complicated?

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg: The situation in the Mediterranean is difficult and allies have expressed their concerns. We also addressed the issue at the Foreign Ministerial meeting of NATO last week. And NATO is a platform where also we can discuss in an open way, when there are differences, disagreements between allies, as we see, for instance, in the eastern Mediterranean. At the same time, I think we all have to look for positive approaches, ways to address the differences and here at NATO, we have established a de-confliction mechanism between Greece and Turkey to reduce the risks, for instance, and accidents between two NATO allies when we see more military presence in the eastern med. And I welcome the fact that both Greece and Turkey have taken part in this de-confliction mechanism and also agreed to cancel some military exercises. I am working on how we can strengthen and expand this de-confliction mechanism because we need to do whatever we can to prevent any instances and accidents between two NATO allies. I also believe that through these technical talks, military technical talks at NATO on de-confliction, we can also help to pave the way for negotiations, political negotiations, addressing the underlying main issues, the main dispute. Of course, allies have expressed their concerns. At the same time, I think also allies realize that Turkey is an important ally, because they border Iraq and Syria. And they have been key in fighting ISIS, liberating the territory of ISIS controlled in Iraq and Syria.

And they, Turkey, is also the NATO ally that hosts the most known, the highest number, of refugees around 4 million and also Turkey is the ally which has suffered the most terrorist attacks. So there are differences there are disagreements, we need to address them. At the same time, we need to make sure that we realize the importance of Turkey as part of NATO and also as part of the Western family.

Antonio Costa, Prime Minister of Portugal: [Interpretation not available]

Piers Cazalet (NATO Deputy Spokesperson): We have time for one final question from Michael Peel, the Financial Times, again for both the Prime Minister and the Secretary General. How worried are you about the prospect of no deal after the talks last night on Brexit? And how much is the EU prepared to compromise to avoid it? And how worried are you by the lack of progress on a new security and defence relationship with the UK.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg: Brexit will change the UK relationship to the European Union but Brexit will not change UK's relationship to NATO and the United Kingdom will remain a strong NATO ally. United Kingdom has the biggest defence budget in Europe. And they have capable forces contributing to NATO in many different ways. So of course, Brexit is an important issue with significant consequences for the United Kingdom and the European Union. But for me as the Secretary General of NATO, it's important to highlight or underline that Brexit does not affect the UK's relationship with NATO, if anything, it makes NATO into an even more important platform for bringing together European allies, North America to sit together and address a wide range of different issues and NATO being an important platform also to address cooperation with partners, like minded countries, like minded democratic nations all over the world and NATO becomes an even more important platform for doing exactly that.

And then also, add to the last question or the previous question, I forgot to say that, of course, we have invited or I have invited Biden to attend the NATO summit that will take place in Brussels next year. And we look forward to have him here. And he has, of course, when we spoke, he also stated clearly that he will, of course, come it is a NATO summit and other leaders will be there, and including President Biden, when he becomes President next year.  And I also believe that of course, in connection with the NATO Summit in Brussels, there will also be ways to engage with EU leaders but also, of course, that's for the US president to decide

Antonio Costa, Prime Minister of Portugal: [Interpretation not available]

Piers Cazalet (NATO Deputy Spokesperson): That's all we have time for. Thank you Secretary General. Thank you Prime Minister.