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Jens Stoltenberg before the European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee and Sub-committee on Security and Defence

Thank you so much, Mister Chairman; and thank you for inviting to this meeting; and giving... providing me the opportunity to address the two committees.

I have myself been a parliamentarian for 25 years. And I appreciate very much the crucial role that parliaments and also the European Parliament plays in our democracies. And I very much look forward to interact with you.

I will have an introduction. And then I will leave time for questions and comment afterwards. I will not cover all possible issues in my introductory remarks. But I will outline some of the main challenges we are facing. And then we can leave the rest for the discussion afterwards.

But I will start by telling you that I’m a strong supporter of closer cooperation between the European Union and NATO. And I believe that we can achieve more if we work more closely together. And we are two organizations which share the same values. We believe in open free democratic societies. And we are sharing the same security environment. We are facing the same challenges and the same threats.

And twenty-two of the members of the European Union of States are also members of the NATO Alliance. And more than 90% of the population in the European Union live in countries which are members of NATO.

So we are two different organizations with different tasks and different responsibilities. But we have also very much in common. And therefore we are cooperating. We should also look into how we can further develop our cooperation.

It has always been important that the European Union and NATO cooperate. But I think it is especially important now; because we are living in a time where we see fundamental changes in our security environment.

We see new threats. We see new challenges. We see them emanating from the East as a consequence of the behaviour of Russia, a more assertive Russia responsible for aggressive actions in Ukraine, using force, military force to change borders to annex a part of another country.

But we also see threats and challenges emanating from the South. Throughout the Middle East, through North Africa, we see turmoil, barbaric violence, ISIL. And this is close to our borders. And there are also links between... links between the turmoil and the violence we see in the Middle East and North Africa and the terrorist attacks we see in our streets in Europe.

The terrorist attacks both in Paris but also in Copenhagen were inspired by the ideology of hatred, of violence which ISIL and other terrorist organizations represent.

So we are together facing a new security environment; an environment which poses new challenges on both the European Union and NATO.

And therefore, I would like to underline that what we do and what we don’t do will be of great importance for the years ahead. We are living in pivotal times; time which is going to be of great importance for generations to come: how we are facing the challenges we are facing both from the East and from the South.

And I would like to start by just remember... reminding you on the fact that NATO for 40 years did collective defence, deterrence in Europe. And we provided security deterrence for all Allies. And we did so without firing a single shot. That was from our foundation in 1948 to the end of the Cold War, the fall of Berlin Wall in 1989.

Then after the end of the Cold War we started to have our main focus on crisis management, managing crises which could pose a threat on our South, on European countries and United States and North America. We did so by conducting operations in the Balkans, in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, in Afghanistan; fighting piracy off the Horn of Africa and also in Libya.

The new challenge now is that we have to continue with managing crises out of area. And at the same time we have to increase our focus on collective defence in Europe. And this is for the first time in the history of the Alliance. We have to do both collective defence in Europe and crisis management out of area at the same time. And this will require a lot from all of us. And I will outline three areas where I see a great potential for increased cooperation between NATO and the European Union and the three areas where we can work together to face the new security environment which we have to address.

The first area I will mention is building sustainability; building... building resilience together. And by saying that I mean that we can work together in strengthening our defence; in facing new threats like, for instance, hybrid warfare. We have seen that being developed, especially by Russia in Ukraine. That’s a combination of using military means and non-military means, overt and covert actions, cyber information and deception. And this means that we have to be able to face this multi-facetted challenge in a multi-facetted way.

NATO has some unique capabilities, competence. The European Union has others. And we have to work together. And just to inform you to tell you a bit about what NATO is doing is that we are increasing the readiness of our forces. We are doubling the size of the NATO Response Force from thirty... from thirteen thousand to thirty thousand.

We are establishing as part of this enhanced NATO Response Force a Spearhead Force, a very high Readiness Joint Task Force. And the lead elements of this force will be able to move within as little as 48 hours. In addition, we are also establishing command and control units in the three Baltic countries, Poland, Romania and Bulgaria.

We are increasing our... We have already increased our military presence in the Eastern part of the Alliance with more planes in the air, air policing; ships at sea; and also more forces on the ground, doing exercises and increasing our military presence in the Eastern part of the Alliance.

This is a response to what we have seen in Ukraine. It’s defensive. It’s proportionate. And it’s completely in line with all our international commitments. But we believe that it is of great importance; because NATO has been and should also in the future be able to provide deterrence and be able to protect all Allies against any threat. And that’s the reason why we are investing in our collective defence; the most substantial increase in our collective defence since the end of the Cold War.

The other area where I see a potential for cooperation with the European Union is when it comes to building resilience together with our neighbours. And that is for instance both with our neighbours to the East of the European Union and to the East of NATO; but also in the South.

Countries like Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, they are partners of NATO. They are cooperating with the European Union. They have all chosen to move on the path towards Europe, sharing our values. And we should work closely with them.

They’re all under pressure from Russia. We should support them and strengthen their ability to withstand the intimidation which Russia is [im]posing on them. And again there are roles for the European Union. And there are tasks for NATO.

What we are doing is that we are working with these countries to help them modernize, reform their defence sector, building institutions. And that’s part of reforming their societies. And I know that the European Union is doing important work on for instance reform; building political institutions; building good governance; and fighting corruption.

And I believe that the partnership, the cooperation with our neighbours in the East will be an important issue at the Eastern Partnership Summit of the European Union and their Eastern partners later on this year in Riga. So working with our partners in the East is an area where we are working together. And we have the same goals.

That’s also the case when we look to the South. NATO is working with partners in the South to try to help them to increase their capacity; to stabilize their own countries; to fight terror; and also to contribute to a more stable development in their region.

We work, for instance, with Jordan. Jordan is a country, a stable country. It’s an island of stability in a sea of instability in the Middle East. We are now assessing a request from the Government of Iraq, looking into how NATO can help Iraq with reforms, with institution building, with increasing their education capacity within defence, training and so on. All this to try to increase the ability of Iraq to fight terror and to create a more stable development in the country. We also stand ready to work with Libya on defence-capacity building when the security situation allows.

Again, these are countries. These are regions where also the European Union is doing important work. The more we can work together the more we can achieve. And if these countries are more stable, we are more secure.

And the whole thing is that we believe that we can be able to project stability without always deploying large numbers of forces. But then we have to work with our partners help them; support them; and thereby enabling them to create stability and security by themselves.

And finally the third area where I will focus, or where I believe there’s a great potential for working together, the European Union and NATO, is on defence investment; because it’s not possible to increase our military capabilities. It’s not possible to do more exercising, more training to provide collective security... collective defence and at the same time support our partners in the East and in the South without investing more in defence.

And we all have to... I think you all know that since 1990 up til today there has been a steady decline in the defence expenditure of European NATO Allies. And also last year, 2014, we saw increase in our security challenges. We saw ISIL. We saw the aggressive actions of Russia in Ukraine. So in 2014, threats increased; but defence spending decreased by 3% among European NATO Allies. So last year, threats went up. Defence spending went down. This cannot continue.

And this is both about our total spending in defence. But it’s also about burden-sharing. I just visited the United States and Canada. And the question in the United States was always: When shall the Europeans do more? The GDP... the national income of European NATO Allies is almost exactly as big as the GDP of the United States.

Despite that, the United States spends more than twice as much on defence as we do. And they are responsible for around 70% of NATO’s total defence expenditure. And this is not sustainable.

And therefore I very much welcome that all European NATO Allies, also then meaning many European Union members decided last fall on what we call ‘the Defence Investment Pledge’ where we promised to stop the cuts and to gradually increase investments in defence as our economies grow, aiming at the 2% guideline within a decade.

So this is something we just have to do; because we can always focus on smarter ways of spending the money on efficiency, on pooling and sharing. And I’m in favour of all of that. And we are working with the European Union on ways to spend smarter to increase efficiency.

But in the long run, it’s not possible to get more out of less. So the time has come to invest more in defence; because in reality the world has changed. And therefore, I welcome the pledge of NATO Allies, European and North American NATO Allies that we have to increase investments in defence.

I will end by just underlining that if we work together on resilience both as partners and with our neighbours in the East and the South, if we invest more in defence, then the European Union and NATO will be able also, in the future, to defend our core values of open democratic societies. And those core values are the basic fundament both for NATO and for the European Union. And therefore we should be able to work even closer together in the future. Thank you for your attention. I’m ready for your questions.

ELMAR BROK (Chair, Committee on Foreign Affairs, European Parliament): I think we have a serious problem now. We have around 30 speakers, and how much time? Forty minutes. And we have also here and…, no, forget it. You’re the 32nd. And my proposal is that because we have an association with SEDE that we take first report… the coordinators of AFET and SEDE, I think the only fair situation, is it, if… and it would mean everyone one minute, then we can get so many as possible.

If you agree with that procedure, I think it’s the only way how we can do that, and therefore I would like to ask now Mrs. Fotyga as the Chairperson of the Subcommittee on Security and Defence to take first the floor, but Mr. Secretary General, burden-sharing, we have to remind the Americans, and you’re the 33rd.

ANNA ELZBIETA FOTYGA (Chair, Subcommittee on Security and Defence): Thank you Chair. Secretary General…

ELMAR BROK: No, no I’m not finished.

ANNA ELZBIETA FOTYGA: Oh, sorry.

ELMAR BROK: I’m not finished. We should remind the Americans that costs include also the costs of soft power as preparation, and if the European Union, its member states, pay 60 percent of developing aid of the world, and the European Union from its budget I guess three times as much money for non-military foreign aid, then it should be taken into account if you come to a fair definition of burden-sharing, and I do not think that we have the possibility to have much more money out of national budget.

Even the United Kingdom which is always close to NATO has now decided not to meet the two percent criteria and suggested the latest budget decisions and therefore this question of closer cooperation in order to getting synergy effects, getting more out of the money which is available, I think is in my opinion the more future-orientated possibility.

But now the floor has Mrs. Fotyga.

ANNA ELZBIETA FOTYGA: Thank you, Chair.

[Applause]

Secretary General, a warm welcome to the European Parliament. Thank you for your contribution, your remarks. I would like to say that you are one of a few European politicians who have certain sentiment, to whom we in Poland have certain sentiment because you contributed some time ago as Prime Minister to our energy security and fortunately it was undermined later, yet we remember this. I mean the pipeline from Norway to Niechorze, the project of this. Secretary, your predecessor, Fogh Rasmussen, during NATO Parliamentary Assembly in Dubrovnik reiterated the NATO promise to Ukraine and Georgia to become one day NATO members. How would you describe their situation now?

And secondly, you were talking during also NATO Parliamentary Assembly in The Hague about trust funds for Ukraine, how would you attract trustees to contribute to these trust funds? Thanks.

ARNAUD DANJEAN (European People’s Party): [Interpreter] Thank you Chairman. Secretary General, on behalf of the European People’s Party group in the Foreign Committee I would like to welcome you here.

Now a personal point regarding what you’ve called a complementary relationship in coordination with the European Union, particularly in the context of crisis management. I certainly agree that there is a great complementarity we can develop and enhance. Nonetheless, I’m not so sure that that complementarity should go so far as actually sharing out tasks.

We sometimes hear those talks about everything military being left to NATO and all the civil operations being handed over to the European Union. It seems to me that given the wide range of threats surrounding us, which you quite rightly recalled, the European Union is not in a position to be able to have to do without a military strategy. Mr. Secretary, particularly if you look to the south and the threats there you know very well the limits to NATO’s ability to take crisis management steps there, particularly given the cultures involved.

Now this is also leading to another issue that’s been [inaudible] discussed namely Turkey’s position which has been somewhat odd shall we say in relation to a number of the regional crisis. I’ll leave it there, thank you.

Q: [Interpreter] Many thanks from our side as well for your clear and nevertheless well thought-out statement. I often get the impression when a NATO secretary general has spoken…, that hasn’t always been the case when I’ve been listening people from NATO. But looking now at the different tasks that we have ahead of us, you talked about some of the examples that could make cooperation not only possible but indeed necessary, you talked about support for Southern Europe, you talked about Jordan, and that’s the kind of issue where we have our full support. I have two questions linked to my fields of interest.

What about the situation in the Western Balkans, first of all? I’m rapporteur for Albania, that’s of interest to me. And secondly, I’d like to know in the current conflict with Russia, are there any possibilities where you would consider, where Russia would consider attacking a NATO member state in order to fulfil its goals in the Ukraine?

Q (European Conservatives and Reformists): Thank you Mr. Secretary General, over here. Well my group, the third group, the ECR, we are a strongly Atlanticist pro-NATO group, we reiterate your calls for maintaining the two percent or increasing to the two percent defence spending in all our member states, and we oppose duplication of CSDP and NATO military operations and don’t wish to see any unnecessary decoupling either of the USA’s mutual interest in the defence sector with the European Union. And I am reassured by your comments that there is a large degree of NATO coordination with the EU.

You mentioned both the fighting of piracy in the Indian Ocean to enhancing cybersecurity, but just out of interest how often do you or your deputy secretary generals actually meet Mrs. Mogherini or her senior staff here in Brussels?

On the issue of Libya, NATO very successful in ending the Gaddafi regime, but what next if the UN Leon [?] talks fail? You mentioned the fact we need to wait until security re-establishes itself, but surely we can’t just wait given the fact that it’s so close to our borders and Libya of course now has the presence of ISIS which makes it even a more dangerous failed-state scenario.

And lastly, NATO enlargement like EU enlargement has been a great success story. As rapporteur for Montenegro could you give me an indication when that country is likely to be invited to join given the fact that Albania is already a full member of NATO?

Q: [Interpreter] Thank you Chairman. Thank you Secretary General for your introductory statement. I’ll keep this very brief.

In Wales you mentioned the two percent of GDP that the member states should be contributing to the NATO budget, but we’re hearing more and more reports from member states saying that they’re not going to be able to meet that target. Do you care to…, an annual assessment? I wonder whether you have some pointers as to which direction we’re heading in on that front.

Then, I’d like to hear from you how great a threat you see from Russia towards Europe. Russia remains one of Europe’s neighbours so how seriously do you take the threat? What risk do you think there really is of Putin using nuclear weapons as he claimed he’s prepared to do on TV? And how can we get out of the current crisis situation? This is something that is occupying us every day in the European Parliament.

Then building up European defence, you mentioned the figures again, how can we ensure that we have joint investment in procurement? Can the NATO member states at least act together to create the core for a European defence force?

Q: [Interpreter] You’ve talked a lot about an investment in defence. I would actually talk more in terms of defence costs. We need to address the two percent GDP figure. Surely quality is more important than quantity, isn’t it? If you set that sort of goal we don’t necessarily see the details, if you’re just investing in warfare. What about money for training, for start? You’ve got all this military equipment, all well and good, but if people aren’t trained to use it properly what’s the point? We need to take a fresh look at the two percent figure and perhaps increasing the defence budget in general.

And then you mentioned Libya, we’ll need to revisit that. Well I’d like to ask this: what lessons did we learn from what happened in Libya? We withdrew from Libya fairly recently but we didn’t have a good exit strategy and we see that this was followed by chaos. How can we do things better in the future?

JAMES CARVER (Member of the European Parliament for the West Midlands region for the UK Independence Party): Mr. Stoltenberg, you’re of course a keen supporter of Norwegian membership at the Union European so I’m not surprised to hear your own support for closer political and military ties between the European Union and NATO. What concerns me of course is [inaudible], you know, under Article 5 NATO members are asked to consider support for a colleague country who is in trouble because under Article 42 subsection 7 of Lisbon an obligation of aid and assistance by all means must be given by member states within their power. We’ve heard only two weeks ago President Juncker call for a European Union Army. How would that affect an oath of allegiance? When I served in Her Majesty’s forces my oath of allegiance was to the Crown. Does that create some sort of conflict perhaps with NATO with regards to an emerging increasingly mirror military outlet for Europe, how does that affect NATO?

And I have to agree with you on one thing though, two percent is…, I think some money should be put forward by all NATO states, I do support, my party supports a two percent contribution, but of course as GDP continue to fall, we’re in an economic decline in the European Union, just finishing Mr. Brok, as we’re in an economic decline of course that figure becomes even less. So an independent Britain will be in a far stronger position because our GDP of course will be much higher to have a higher [inaudible] of two percent. Thank you.

JENS STOLTENBERG (NATO Secretary General): Thank you, I’ll try to be brief. And some over there who ask the same… not the same questions but related to some of the same issues so I should try to be as brief as possible.

First to Mrs. Fotyga on the open door in Ukraine. First of all a very important thing is that it is the right of every sovereign nation to decide its own path including what kind of security arrangements it wants to be part of. And this is not something just I state but this is something which is enshrined in the Helsinki Final Act and in many other documents and treaties and agreements. And it’s quite obvious that part of being independent, part of being sovereign is also that you have the right to decide whether you would like to be part of an alliance or not, and we have to respect both decisions we should never try to force anyone into any kind of alliance or organizations, but if they want then this is a question between that applicant nation, and the organization. So if anyone wants to become a member of NATO, that’s a question which has to be decided by the 28 NATO allies and the country that applies for membership. No one else has any right to intervene or to try to veto, and that also of course goes for Russia…

[Applause]

JENS STOLTENBERG: … because then they try to re-establish some kind of spheres of influence where they are trying to control their neighbours.

Georgia, they have applied for membership. We have a comprehensive package helping Georgia, with training, with reform, with institution-building, and we are establishing a big training centre there, and all of this we do to try to help them on the way towards NATO membership and to qualify, meeting the standards of a NATO member.

Ukraine announced recently that they will start a reform process aiming at applying for membership later on. They have said that this will take some time, but so the point is that we will assess a possible application of Ukraine in exactly the same way as we assess any other application for membership. But that we have to come back to when and if they apply.

Then I was also asked about Montenegro and can take that in the same round and that is that it was Charles Tannock who asked about Montenegro. And Montenegro is a country where we have promised to make an assessment to take decisions by the end of this year. So this is something we have to address within NATO in the quite near future.

Then Danjean, I would like to underline that NATO is both a political alliance and a military alliance so it’s not that NATO always do only military work, we have also a lot of political cooperation with many partners, with many countries all around the world, but of course we have some unique tools when it comes to military capabilities. Our command structure, the interoperability of forces and the long experience we have in conducting military operations.

Then Fleckenstein. Also you asked me whether I believe there will be a conflict with Russia. We don’t see any imminent threat against any NATO ally. And therefore our focus is on how can we continue to provide deterrence because one reason why we don’t see any imminent threat against any NATO ally is of course that NATO is able to provide credible deterrence and that’s the reason why we are increasing the readiness, the preparedness of our forces and developing new capabilities.

So that’s the success of NATO, is that we have been together for more than 60 years, we have been able to provide the necessary deterrence and defence for all NATO allies.

Then I was asked about Libya. Yes, okay, Western Balkans. I’ll try to be brief. The problem with… the Western Balkans, well we I think Western Balkans is an area or is a region where we have seen the European Union and NATO working together in a very good way. We have just visited Kosovo, we have the NATO KFOR Force there, essential for stability and security. It’s welcomed both by Pristina and Belgrade. And then you have the European Union, the EULEX doing law enforcement and of course we work together and what NATO does and what the European Union does is complementary, and together we provide stability and security for Kosovo.

So that’s an excellent example of how the European Union and NATO can work together.

We have also cooperation in Bosnia and Herzegovina. So the Western Balkans faces many challenges, but at the same time I think the Western Balkans ever since we had the NATO operations there at the end of the 1990s, in Kosovo, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and up to now, is an example of how Europe, NATO is taking responsibility to stabilize its neighbourhood both because we have a moral duty to do so, but also because by stabilizing Western Balkans we also create more security for ourselves.

Then on how often do I meet Mogherini, I meet her quite often actually. So we have met several times. I met her just I think one or two days after she took office. She is an old friend, and we have an excellent relationship. I met also with Donald Tusk, I met him with Martin Schultz and we have… I meet many of the political leaders in the European Union. We have staff-to-staff cooperation and we work on as I said different areas together like for instance the Western Balkans but also in Afghanistan. NATO Forces have provided for years security which has been essential for the European Union and others to provide development aid and development assistance.

We are working together off the Horn of Africa to fight piracy. So we have a lot of cooperation already but we want more and that’s a responsibility that’s a task for many different levels from the top and throughout our organizations to develop more cooperation between NATO and the European Union.

Then Ms. Vautmans you mentioned the two percent and several of you have mentioned that, and let me just underline, I have to be honest with you and tell you that when I was Minister of Finance I was responsible for cutting defence spending and I did it with I say a great enthusiasm. As defence, as Minister of Finance, and governments have done all over Europe since 1990, and in the beginning I think actually it was possible to say or to defend it because we had the end of the Cold War, we had the completely changed security situation, so I remember it, I said in my government that since the security environment has changed, the Cold War was over, it was possible to reduce defence spending. But then when the security environment changed again, and we are moving into a situation where we see new threats, new challenges, both from the East and from the South, then we must be able to adapt once again.

So that’s one of the reasons why when I was Prime Minister I started to increase defence spending in my country. So the challenge is to be able to reduce defence spending when tensions are going down, but to be able to increase them when there is a need for increased defence spending, and now the world is more challenging and we have to increase defence spending.

No one is expecting that we are going to reach two percent tomorrow. What we said in Wales, at the NATO summit, was to stop the cuts and then gradually increase. I understand that reaching two percent might be difficult and I also agree with [inaudible] that it’s important to spend the money efficiently and therefore I support all efforts the pooling and the sharing by the European Union, the smart defence by NATO, all efforts to try to make sure that we are spending more and more efficiently. But as I said we cannot get more out of less indefinitely. So at some stage after 25 years of defence decline, we have to at least stop the cuts and gradually start to increase it again.

And the last thing I would say about defence spending is that all politicians, at least almost all politicians would like to spend money on something else than defence; on health, on education, on infrastructure. But sometimes you also have to invest in your security because security is basic for so much more, our open, free societies, our prosperity, and the stability around us. So therefore we have to invest in defence.

Then it was James Carver. You said it was not strange that I was in favor of a closer cooperation with the European Union, and that’s since I was not able to get Norway into the European Union, that’s true. I was strongly fighting in favor of Norway joining the European Union, but you know Norway is the only country in the world which has negotiated an accession treaty into the European Union and then watered it down, not only once but twice, and I lost both referendums, so I left Norwegian [inaudible]. And so, but anyway, it is important, I believe in the cooperation and you are right.

Then on European defence, it’s up to the European Union to decide. And I welcome all efforts by any European nation to develop defence capabilities to strengthen its defences, to invest more in defence. That will increase the security of both NATO allies and European nations.

But, and this is important, we have to avoid duplications, and we have to make sure that what the European Union is doing is complementary to what NATO is doing. Because NATO has been able to provide security and collective defence for European allies, for 65 years, we should continue to do so, but then we have to make sure that we are using our resources in the best possible way and then we have to avoid duplication and make sure that what we do is complementary, or what the European Union is doing is complementary to what NATO is doing.

Well I think that was all the questions. I tried to be brief but it’s not so easy. Thank you.

ELMAR BROK: Thank you. Please, one minute each.

Tunne Kelam.

TUNNE KELAM (European Parliament Member from Estonia): Thank you very much, thanks Mr. Stoltenberg for your rapid response to the Ukrainian crisis and other crisis also. And you just said that you don’t see imminent threat to any NATO members. However representing Estonia and also my Latvian colleagues, I would say that there are widespread assumptions that the next target in case Mr. Putin would decide to continue aggression would be the Baltic States and here Mr. Putin wants to test just NATO’s credibility because here is the best chance to compromise it. We know about the NATO’s Article number 5 but the problem is that aggression has become… forms of aggression have become much more fluid [inaudible] using proxies and also my question is about continuing Russian military manoeuvres in our neighbourhood. I expect that by conducting these manoeuvres, a grey zone would be created where regular provocations could transform into aggression, are you prepared for such an eventuality?

And you mentioned I think the crucial credibility gap is now the final sync [?] of our defence extension. You mentioned that we are trying to decrease, to stop decreasing budgets, but how to overcome this situation.

Q: Mr. Secretary General, do you think indeed you and NATO are building this resilience together when for instance challenge with Ukraine, they are not able to counter the propaganda campaign, the lying campaign engineered by Russia and with a media campaign with the truth geared in to the public opinion of Russia, and when actually there are contradictory statements by EU and NATO spokespersons on the assessment of the threats all around, and then also when our members in the framework of NATO or EU are not even coordinating and for instance supplying the equipment that the Peshmergas need to actually eradicate ISIS from their ground. And talking about the investment in defence sector and defence investment, do we actually need to spend more or to spend better, and deliver indeed in what we spend, for instance when we see our member states shutting capacities and selling technology, European defence technology companies to… or critical infrastructure to for instance Chinese company, State companies…?

ELMAR BROK: One minute please. First coordinators of existing groups.

The floor has now Geoffrey Van Orden.

GEOFFREY VAN ORDEN (Committee on Foreign Affairs, European Conservatives and Reformists Group): I Thank you very much, and you’re very welcome, Secretary General. Can I just say, to start with, let’s not confuse the European Union and the European nations and thank goodness the European Defence is not a matter for the European Union. And unfortunately, the EU, as an institution, is too concerned with just placing its institutional footprint on things, rather than doing what’s useful. And unlike my good friend and colleague, Mr. Danjean, I think there should be a division of labour with NATO and the EU should focus on the civil task. My quick question is on the subject of public information. Too often, the battle is lost not on the battlefield, but in the living rooms of our citizens. We’ve now got an increasingly skeptical and perhaps war-weary public. Do you think more needs to be done by organizations like NATO to communicate the need for NATO, the need for our armed forces so that our public have a better understanding? Thank you.

MARIETJE SCHAAKE (Substitute, Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe): Thank you Chair, thank you Secretary General. When I see you I can’t help but recall the words you said after the horrible Breivik attacks when you said: "What we need in the face of these atrocities is more humanity, more freedom and more democracy. And I wish you a lot of wisdom in these very challenging times to indeed build resilience of open societies". And in that context, I would like to ask you to elaborate a little bit more on what resilience, in your opinion, looks like when it comes to the digital domain? We’ve seen some thought exercise in the Tallinn manual, but it’s really important, in my opinion, that we also underpin any actions by the appropriate legal framework and judiciary and democratic oversight when it comes to any kind of capacity, whether it be offensive or defensive. So, perhaps you can shed some light on what you believe that resilience of our systems, rather, in the context of open societies online looks like. Thank you.

TAMÁS MESZERICS (Committee on Foreign Affairs, Group of the Greens/European Free Alliance): Thank you Chair, thank you Secretary General. In following on what has just been said by my colleague, obviously European security cannot be defined just in military terms. Resilience and European security has to be defined with a wider spectrum. Now, I would be interested in how you want to promote those dimensions when you always insist so heavily on this one figure of two percent GDP. I strongly believe that this is creating a situation in which we’re not able to mind the efficiencies that we could still have. We’re spending too much money on too little bank for the buck. And I think if we now say let’s spend more, we will not be more efficient and we will be directing our attention just to the military and not to resilience.

JAROMÍR ŠTĚTINA (Committee on Foreign Affairs, Group of the European People’s Party, Christian Democrats): [Interpreter] Secretary General, currently an American convoy is passing the Czech Republic. The troops of this convoy have participated at a common military exercise in Baltic countries. In the Czech Republic, the troops are welcomed by thousands of Czech people. The convoy shows that we are all committed to protect our common values. Secretary General, I would like to ask you whether you think that there is time to show that we’re really committed also to show our values in a...

TONINO PICULA (Committee on Foreign Affairs, Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament): Thank you Mr. Secretary General, you mentioned the good reasons, threats from the east, threats from the south, but agree that we must not keep a blind eye to challenges coming from the southeast. Having said that, how do you perceive Russian activitiess in the western Balkans? For example, recent joint military exercise between Serbia in vicinity of the Croatian border. Do you believe that this is an isolated event organized deliberately around Mr. President Putin’s visit to Belgrade, or is it a part of the certain Russian strategic approach to this still sensitive European area? And my second question is: how do you see, from a security point of view, recruitment and flow of a number of the people from the western Balkan countries to fight an Islamic State side? Thank you.

ELMAR BROK: Signore Borghezio.

MARIO BORGHEZIO (Committee on Foreign Affairs, Non-attached Member): [Interpreter] Thank you Mr. Chairman. Very briefly, I must say... I heard some news that President Erdoğan expressed his great satisfaction with the fall of the Syrian city of Idlib with respect to the hydro development [?]. Now, this is an excellent opportunity for the… to hear what the Secretary General of NATO, how they would qualify the role of Turkey, and their regime, with respect to the situation in the combats and those fighting for the [inaudible] of our values, are called upon and that they’re committed to into the fight of terrorists, fighting terrorists in the Islamic State. Because the Turks have not always been totally lying. There’s a conflict between our values and the Islamic one.

DAVID MCALLISTER (Committee on Foreign Affairs, Group of the European People’s Party, Christian Democrats): Mr. Secretary General, you just spoke about the situation in the western Balkans and I would also like to ask you how you see the current political situation in Serbia with regard to what my Croatian colleague Picula already said. Thank you.

AFZAL KHAN (Committee on Foreign Affairs, Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament): Thank you Chair. Secretary General, thank you for coming here and sharing your thoughts with us and also your expression that you want to see further, closer cooperation between the EU and NATO. I am a shadow rapporteur for Bosnia. I want to ask you a question that NATO expressed a desire for Bosnia to join the club. This is welcomed by the organs of the EU. As we see, Bosnia as a future of the Euro-Atlantic family. Secretary General, currently the conditionality for Bosnia’s membership includes provisions which requires the registration of a mobile defence properties as state property. This condition has given certain politicians in the country a veto over Bosnia’s future NATO membership. At the same time, NATO’s having intensified and focused talks enabling Montenegro as you expressed before and we hope that they’ll be joining. In light of the EU’s renewed focus on Bosnia, will NATO now reconsider this conditionality, and therefore fast track Bosnia’s membership into our alliance? And the last two seconds, I’ll be very quick: the issue of Iran and the nuclear talk. Of course, we wish that to be successful. Now, I visited together with the chair many countries in the Arab world where they see huge concern about Iran. How do you see Iran’s role in the Middle East? Thank you.

ELMAR BROK: Thank you.

JACEK SARYUSZ-WOLSKI (Committee on Foreign Affairs, Group of the European People’s Party, Christian Democrats): Secretary General. First, how do you assess the probability of further Russian invasion in Ukraine? Second, is NATO prepared to respond to the hybrid war against NATO front line states? Third, would you support the idea of deducting up to two percent of the GDP from the fiscal disciplined target in the EU? Thank you.

JENS STOLTENBERG: First, Mr. Kalman [phon] on whether there are threats against the Baltic States and whether NATO is prepared to defend them. As I said, we don’t see any imminent threat against any NATO ally, and that includes the Baltic States. But what we see is a new security environment; we see a more assertive Russia, we see a Russia responsible for aggressive actions. And we have to remember that this is not only in Ukraine. But Russia has deployed forces in Moldova, and they’ve used forces in Georgia and they annexed Crimea and they are supporting the separatists, destabilizing Eastern Ukraine. So, what we see in Ukraine is part of a pattern and that, of course, increases the reasons for concern. And this is the reason why we are adapting our forces to this new security environment. And as I already outlined, we have doubled the size of our NATO response force and we are making them more ready, more prepared and we’re doing more exercises. We have more forces in the eastern part of the Alliance and we are making reinforcement easier also by establishing this command and control units in all the Baltic countries.

So, all of this we do to make sure that we also, in this new security environment, is able to continue to do what NATO has done for decades and that is to protect and defend all allies against any threat and that’s the reason why we are adapting, so we can continue to provide the security guarantees for, also, of course, the Baltic countries. So, we are prepared, but we are prepared because we are adapting, because we are investing and because we are implementing the biggest reinforcement to our collective defence since the end of the Cold War.

Then, Miss Gomes, and some others asked me about information and the Russian propaganda campaign. Russia is conducting a propaganda campaign and they are, they are spreading a lot of information which is, obviously, or propaganda which is, which is, which is painting a picture of what’s going on, which is completely wrong. But I believe very strongly that we should not meet propaganda with propaganda. We should tell the truth. And in the long run, the truth will prevail over propaganda. And that’s of course a responsibility of NATO. I think I do that almost daily. I try to comment, I try to convey our message in different speeches, interviews and so on. The European Union has to do it. We can try to work even closer together to develop the message. We share the same values, we have the same approach. But I will also like to underline that, in addition to what the European Union and NATO can do, this is also very much a responsibility of each and every allied country to answer, to respond to the propaganda of Russia, which often aims at specific nations or specific groups. In addition, I really believe this is an individual responsibility we all have to take part in the debate and to answer when we see statements from Russia which we disagree with or which we know are propaganda.

Just to underline it, we have to spend both more and better. It’s not either more or better. But what I’m trying to convey to you is that we have decreased defence spending for 25 years and we are below 1.5 percent. And last year, we all agreed that threats went up, but we still continued to decrease our defence spending in real terms by three percent. So, we cannot choose between either increase spending or spending better, we have to do both because we cannot get more out of less indefinitely.

Then, Mr. Van Orden, you also asked me about public information and I will like to underline the following: that our most important strength is that we have our values, that we believe in open democratic societies. That’s common for the European Union and NATO. And because we believe in open democratic societies, we will not always have exactly the same message on all issues. There will be different opinions, different views and open debate. But that’s not a weakness, that’s a strength because you only have in totalitarian societies one opinion about every issue. The important thing is that we agree on the main message: that we will defend open democratic societies because we are certain that open democratic societies are stronger than the totalitarian societies. And I think history has proven that again and again. But then we have to defend them, we have to protect them and we have to stay united in the defence of open democratic societies, accepting that within those societies there will be an open democratic debate.

Then, Miss Schaake asked me about cyber. And I would like to start by telling you that NATO has made it clear that – we did that last fall – that a cyberattack can trigger Article 5 or our collective defence. Because a cyberattack can be as serious as a conventional attack; it can destroy infrastructure and it can cause a lot of harm. And therefore we are both doing a lot to increase our capabilities when it comes to defence of NATO networks, but we’re also doing more to help allies defend their own networks. And we have established a team which we can send out to nations, if needed, to help them to defend and to re-establish their networks if they are attacked. Of course, it’s always a balance between protecting privacy, accepting the rights of individuals and, at the same time, being able to protect the collective security of a nation. But, I think that when it comes to cyber, I think it’s extremely important that we are aware that this is a threat which we have to take very seriously and we’re doing a lot of exercises. I visited Estonia before Christmas and I saw the biggest exercise which NATO has ever conducted when it comes to cyber and cyber defence.

Then, Mr. Bütikofer, you asked me also about Russia and I… I don’t think that… I think that the aim of Russia is to re-establish a system of spheres of influence and we don’t accept that because every nation is sovereign. We should respect the borders and the territorial integrity of every nation and that’s the reason why we are doing what we are doing.

Then, Mr. Štětina, you asked me about whether we should show our values, as far as I understood. And I will say yes, that’s our strength, that’s what really makes us different than compared to totalitarian regimes, but also in the fight against ISIL, in the fight against extremism, I think that the best way of protecting our open and free societies is to continue to be open and free societies and to stay very strong. And it was a very moving experience to be in Paris, after the terrorist attack, and see hundreds of thousands of people marching the streets to defend the right of all of us against this terrorist attack which was, not only at innocent people but which was also aimed at the core values of our societies: the freedom of speech, the freedom of opinion.

And, as you know, you have also now U.S. troops exercising in your country, part of a broad European exercise, and they are there to make sure that everyone understands that an attack on one ally will be an attack on all allies, which is the core idea of NATO.

Then, Mr. Picula: Serbia. So Serbia is a sovereign and independent country and therefore they make their own decisions. And they have decided to exercise with Russia. I… That’s their right to decide. But Serbia also do a lot of exercises together with NATO. And I met with the Serbian Prime Minister recently and he underlined that they will continue to do exercises with NATO and actually want more cooperation with NATO and we have signed a partnership agreement with Serbia. So, I think we just have to accept that not all countries want to be members of NATO, at least not immediately. But we should welcome cooperation with them and we are developing our cooperation with Serbia.

Then, Mr. Borghezio, you asked me about Turkey. And Turkey I will only say that Turkey is the ally most affected by the crisis in Syria and Iraq. They have received hundreds of thousands of refugees. They are part of the Alliance, of the coalition fighting ISIL. And they’re also contributing to the training of soldiers to fight ISIL. So, Turkey’s playing an important role in the fight against ISIL and extremism in Iraq and Syria.

Mr. McAllister: western Balkan. Western Balkan is of course a region with great challenges. And there are some problems we should not underestimate, for instance the ability for Bosnia-Herzegovina to move forward on the path towards NATO membership. We have seen very little reform and we have seen - especially when it comes to the question of defence property which is a key issue related to whether Bosnia-Herzegovina can qualify to become a NATO member – we have seen not progress in the way we wanted to be. We have the challenges in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, the main [name?] issues related to potential membership for the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia into NATO. And, of course, there are still a lot of challenges in the region. But, I think also the experience, as I’ve underlined already from western Balkans, is that when NATO and the European Union, when we work together, we can achieve a lot. So, we have to continue to work together, especially in the western Balkans. These are countries which are on the path, on the Euro-Atlantic Corporation and I welcome that and then we have to continue to work with them, to support them, and help them.

Ja. Actually Mr. Khan, you asked me about Bosnia, I think I already actually answered to question on Bosnia. You asked me about Iran, I support very much the efforts to try to reach an agreement related to Iran’s nuclear program and, of course, Iran should also accept and adhere to the Non-Proliferation Treaty, which is a key treaty aiming at avoiding the proliferation of nuclear weapons.

Ja? That was, so far.

ELMAR BROK: Thank you very much for this discussion. Sorry, I see our Swedish non-member friend was always interested in NATO questions.

[Laughs]

ELMAR BROK: A few of us didn’t get to the floor, but next time there’s more rights to do so, but because it was a joint session we said that we had to do it in that way. Thank you very much Secretary General for answering these questions in the hope we can continue the debate. I think there will be need for that, and perhaps we could do that after the June EU Summit; that outcome well that could mean for our practical corporation. So let’s think about this after the summer break to come to further meeting in all to discuss these things. And hopefully the situation is not even worse than today. Thank you very much for coming here.

JENS STOLTENBERG: Thank you.