Joint press point
by NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen and Alan Shatter, Minister for Justice and Equality, and Minister of Defence of Ireland prior to the meeting of European Union Defence Ministers Dublin, Ireland
NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen and the Minister of Defence of Ireland, Alan Shatter
I am very happy to be in Dublin.
I look very much forward to the meeting with EU Defence Ministers.
Close cooperation and coordination between the EU and NATO is of utmost importance.
This year, the European Union will discuss how to strengthen European defence.
From a NATO perspective, we welcome that. We welcome that there will be a European Council meeting in December and during that process, it is of utmost importance to ensure close coordination between NATO and the European Union.
I consider a strengthened European defence to also be of benefit to NATO. A stronger European defence will also be a stronger European pillar within NATO, provided that we avoid waste of tax payers’ money. There is only one set of tax payers, one set of capabilities, so we should avoid duplication; we should avoid competition between the two organisations; we should ensure complementarity. And in that respect, I really appreciate your invitation to me to participate in today’s meeting.
Furthermore, this the first ever visit of a NATO Secretary General to Ireland, so it is really an historic event. Many things have changed during recent years. NATO today is a modern security organisation and we appreciate very much our partnership with Ireland. I am here to thank Ireland for its contribution to UN-mandated NATO-led operations in Afghanistan and Kosovo, and I look very much forward to further developing our partnership in the coming years.
ALAN SHATTER (Irish Minister for Justice and Equality, and Minister of Defence): Just to respond to that, I very much welcome the presence of the Secretary General. We see our contribution to peacekeeping missions and to conflict management as a crucial and central role to our participation in the United Nations. The United Nations is dealing with issues on a regionalized basis. NATO plays a very important role in that context.
We believe the EU, as an entity, should be more identifiable, also, in that role, and we see our participation in NATO Partnership for Peace as a very valuable and important contribution that we can make to peacekeeping.
NATO is an important partner. It provides standards of excellence that are important with regard to missions in which we can participate. And of course, there are connectivities and synergies between the role of NATO and European security and defence policy. And I think it's very important that we engage in an open dialogue, and I particularly welcome the fact that you're here with us today to participate in the discussions that we're going to have relating to the regionalization of UN missions and how they can be best structured in a manner that ensures they're effective. And there are synergies and compatibilities and interactive operational capacities within the European Union, within defence forces, so they can, as was well put, contribute to these missions in a manner that's cost effective, capability effect and where we play complementary roles.
So you're very welcome, and I'm looking forward to a very interesting discussion this morning.
Moderator: The meeting is ready to start. We can take a couple of very quick questions.
Q: Just on the issue of NATO, Ireland's involvement with NATO, how does that sit with our own traditional neutrality?
ALAN SHATTER: Ireland has been involved in Partnership for Peace since the late nineties. Our engagement is based on the contribution we want to make to peacekeeping, on the recognition that NATO has now evolved into a different organization to the organization that would have existed in Cold War times. And many of our European partners are part of NATO. Some of the members of the European Union, like Ireland, are not formally part of NATO, but all engaged in Partnership for Peace under UN-mandated Blue Hat missions. So there's a complementary engagement, there's a partnership engagement, and it's an engagement that has proved fruitful in locations like Afghanistan and Kosovo.
MODERATOR: Final question (inaudible).
Q: (Inaudible...) President Obama's announcement (inaudible...). I also know that... (inaudible...) and how did that... how is that (inaudible...) for troop withdrawals from Afghanistan?
ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN (NATO Secretary General): The drawdown in Afghanistan will take place in a well-planned and well-coordinated manner. President Obama's announcement yesterday is in full accordance with the road map we have outlined. We will gradually hand over responsibility to the Afghans. That process will be completed by the end of 2014. So from now until the end of 2014 you will see a gradual drawdown of international troops. It will take place in such a manner that we can manage it logistically and President Obama's announcement yesterday is in full accordance with that overall roadmap.
Q: What about the convoy route in Pakistan (inaudible...)?
ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: Yes, but we have actually opened transit routes through several countries. Pakistan is one example, but we also have transit routes through Central Asian countries and Russia. So we have several possibilities to manage this logistical challenge.
Q: What's the most viable?
ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: Beg your pardon?
Q: What's the most viable route? Is it Pakistan?
ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: Well, that depends. That depends on geography and from which countries military equipment... or to which countries military equipment will have to be transported. But it's a good thing to have several options.
MODERATOR: Okay, thanks very much, guys.