Joint press statement by President of Romania, Mr. Klaus Iohannis, with Secretary General of NATO, Mr Jens Stoltenberg

10:20 | 31 january 2019 |

President of Romania, Mr. Klaus Iohannis, on Thursday, 31st January 2019, at the Cotroceni Palace, delivered a joint press statement with Secretary General of NATO, Mr. Jens Stoltenberg.


The transcript of the joint press conference (as translated) is as follows:

President of Romania, Mr. Klaus Iohannis:

Good afternoon!

Mr. Secretary General of NATO, dear Jens, it is a great pleasure for me to welcome you to Cotroceni today and to have had the opportunity to discuss in depth the various matters that interest us as related to NATO.

This visit is so much the more important as we are in the beginning of a special year for NATO because it is seventy years since the creation of the Alliance and for Romania because we have been a NATO member for fifteen years. These anniversaries obviously are a good opportunity to look at our shared achievements and also to take a look at the future, the evolution of the Alliance and, in our case, to us, Romania’s role in NATO. A role that I see as important and for that we are getting involved.

As I mentioned, we covered all the main topics that concern NATO structures at present. I reconfirmed to the Secretary General our definite commitment to standing not only a strong, but also a reliable Ally.

As I have often stated, Romania firmly supports a strengthening of the Alliance. It is the strongest Alliance that ever existed but for it to remain so, it takes a lot of work. We rely on strong, sound transatlantic relationship, which is indispensable for the security and prosperity of the Euro-Atlantic space.

Romania will continue to act as a provider of security and stability in the region and, obviously, it will carry on all of its commitments; these days the most debated of these commitments is what we call burden sharing, that is how much we spend on defence. Romania has pledged to spend 2% and we are keeping at it. A significant part of that money will go, as we have agreed in the Supreme Council of National Defence, into modernising our armed forces and this has already become visible and is regarded as a positive example within NATO.

We actively contribute to the strengthening of NATO’s posture of deterrence and defence, both on our own territory and on other states’ territory. Our presence in Poland is a very good example here.

At the same time, Romania maintains a substantial contribution to the allied operations and missions - the most eloquent example would surely be our presence in Afghanistan. We are very active in Afghanistan. Our military are much respected and are doing an excellent job. All these efforts confirm the importance we place on Allied solidarity and on comprehensively approaching the risks.

We are fully aware, at the same time, these contributions are absolutely necessary in the current context, which is marked by violations of international law and the use of military force, including in our vicinity.

The process of NATO’s adjustment to these new realities must continue. A credible and effective deterrence and defence posture is crucial to respond to the complex threats we are facing.

The goal is ensuring full implementation of the steps that were agreed upon collectively in a collective effort in a coherent and sustained manner.

Defence on the Eastern Flank and in the Black Sea region, which interests us greatly, must remain priorities, especially as the security situation in our area is a major source of concern for NATO.

I discussed with the Secretary General about the progress recorded in implementing the forward Allied presence in our region. On that basis, we will continue to work to strengthen the Multinational Brigade in Craiova to ensure a constant presence of Allied ships, navy ships in the Black Sea and to establish military arrangements for command and control as effective as possible. These steps are part of a long-term strategic approach, which concerns the entire Black Sea region, which is obviously of major importance for us. Nevertheless, through our involvement, through our effort, we have been able to get all the Allies to understand the importance of the Black Sea region and we have been successful.

At the same time, we have advocated the importance of containing a NATO active support for its partners that are targeted by multiple security threats, whether conventional or hybrid.

Not least, in the context of Romania’s holding the presidency of the Council of the European Union, I discussed with the Secretary General about the relationship between NATO and European Union.

We both agree that we have to a) closely collaborate, cooperate; b) both sides to get involved in projects that supplement each other, as opposed to competing with each other.

We believe that serious approach, long-term approach, solid approach is what will create synergies.

From the position of a strong state devoted equally to the European project and the continued solidification of NATO and the transatlantic relationship, Romania will use every opportunity to promote the development of the strategic partnership between NATO and the European Union.

Thank you!

Secretary General of NATO, Mr. Jens Stoltenberg: Thank you, President Iohannis, my friend Klaus!

It is really a great pleasure to be back here in Bucharest and once again meet with you.

And I would also like to thank you for your strong personal commitment to our Alliance, to our transatlantic security, cooperation. And also the leadership you show in NATO. So thank you so much for once again hosting me here in Bucharest.

We just had an excellent meeting where we discussed a wide range of issues which are of importance for all NATO Allies. NATO is adapting to a more unpredictable and uncertain security environment. And Romania’s role in that is of great importance. I also thank you for Romanian’s contributions to the adaption of NATO responding to a more challenging security environment.

This year is Romania’s fifteenth anniversary of NATO membership.

And today, you contribute to our shared security in many ways, and in many different places. In Afghanistan, hundreds of Romanian troops help stabilize the country and deny safe haven to international terrorists.

In the Western Balkans, your forces contribute to greater security as part of KFOR. In Poland, Romanian troops deter aggression as part of our multinational battlegroup.

Here in Romania, you host a site for NATO’s Ballistic Missile Defence. You also make essential contributions to Black Sea security, including the Romanian-led multinational battlegroup in Craiova, Air policing and a strong naval presence.

To keep our people safe in a more dangerous world, we need to invest in defence. So I welcome Romania’s plans to spend 2 percent of GDP on defence this year and to modernise your armed forces over the next decade.

Modern capabilities and contributions to our missions and operations make NATO stronger and they make Romania safer.

I also congratulate you on your first presidency of the Council of the European Union and thank Romania for making NATO-EU cooperation a priority during your presidency.

President Iohannis and I also discussed the INF Treaty. Russia has deployed a new type of missile in violation of that treaty. This missile, the SSC-8, is nuclear-capable, hard to detect, and able to reach European cities.

At the NATO Foreign Ministerial meeting in December, the United States – with the strong support of Allies – announced they would give Russia 60 days to return to compliance with the INF Treaty.

That period will end in two days and unfortunately, we have seen no signs of a breakthrough. So we must prepare for a world without the INF Treaty. NATO’s military authorities have started looking into the consequences. NATO must maintain credible and effective deterrence and defence.

At the same time, Allies are firmly committed to arms control and we must look at new initiatives. Because a new arms race would be in no one’s interest.

As you mentioned, we also discussed Afghanistan. All Allies support an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace and reconciliation process, and we welcome the efforts of US Special Representative Khalilzad.

This was one of the main topics discussed with Secretaries Pompeo and Shanahan in Washington last weekend. NATO continues to help create the conditions for a peaceful settlement. Troops from 39 nations currently contribute to our Resolute Support Mission, with up to half coming from non-US Allies. We came in together and we will stay together, until the time is right to draw down our forces together.

Afghanistan will be an important issue for the meeting of NATO Defence Ministers in Brussels in February.

We also discussed NATO’s continued commitment to our Open Door policy and I want to congratulate both Skopje and Athens, and I commend Prime Minister Tsipras and Prime Minister Zaev for their courage and strong leadership, in making the name dispute a thing of the past.

Now we look to the future. I expect all 29 Allies will sign the Accession Protocol soon. Then Skopje will take part in NATO meetings as an invitee. Once all 29 Allies have ratified the Protocol, we will be able to welcome the Republic of North Macedonia as NATO's 30th member. This will consolidate peace and stability in the region, and Europe as a whole.

So President Iohannis, thank you again for Romania’s strong commitment to NATO! I look forward to welcoming you to a meeting of Allied leaders later this year.

Question and Answer Session:

Journalist: A question for both of you. what is NATO and Romania’s approach, both in the light of its strategic interests and as the current Presidency of the EU Council, to the evolution of the European defence, so that it does not compete with NATO and, mostly, it does not create a transatlantic division, as we can see in certain President Trump’s speeches?

Secretary General of NATO, Mr. Jens Stoltenberg: I welcome EU efforts on defence because I believe that can help to develop new military capabilities, address the fragmentation of the European defence industry and also help to increase defence as spending across Europe.

I also welcome that Europe – the Europe Union and NATO are cooperating more closely than we have done ever before. At the same time, it is important that EU efforts on defence complement not compete with NATO and we have to remember that EU can never replace NATO.

We welcome European unity, but European unity cannot substitute for transatlantic unity and NATO remains the cornerstone for European security. Especially after Brexit, then 80% of NATO’s defence expenditure will come from non-EU Allies and three of the four battlegroups we have in the Baltic region and Poland will be led by non-EU NATO Allies: the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom.

So, EU efforts on defence have to complement and not compete with NATO. We have to avoid duplication and, of course, we have to make sure that we strengthen not weaken the transatlantic bond. So, as a way to strengthen the European pillar within a NATO framework, we strongly welcome EU efforts on defence.

President of Romania, Mr. Klaus Iohannis: The Secretary General gave you a very comprehensive answer. I would like to add just two very important ideas. The complementary aspect of the efforts for modernisation, for upgrading between NATO and the EU is vital. No one wants, and I can assure you of that, because I have also discussed about this at the European Council and in bilateral and informal meetings with European leaders, nobody wants to create a competition between NATO and the European Union. We all want to do so as to see the NATO projects and the EU projects to be complementary, to strengthen each other, not to compete with each other.

The second issue, you are well aware of the voices that, at a certain moment, stated that Europe does too little for its own defence. Well, now it does more and I consider this effort is both important and visible and it will be a clear benefit for NATO. The fact that the European Union has developed projects like PESCO shows that we have understood we need to play a very important role in NATO. I repeat, in NATO, not instead of NATO or in parallel with NATO and it is a good thing. Overall, the burden sharing allocation of funds for equipping and modernising the armed forces must also create new projects. Projects that come to improve things including the European pillar of NATO and that is what is going on.

Journalist: I have a question for both of you, too. As I have heard you talking about this allocation - we know it very well, we have committed for 2% of the GDP for defence too, but we managed to spend around 1,8%, moreover, the significant purchases are postponed constantly. I would give you just an example: the auction for the Corvettes has been suspended. I would like to ask you, Mr. Secretary General, how does NATO see the delay of this important purchasing? Mr. President, what cold we do to solve this problem?

Secretary General of NATO, Mr. Jens Stoltenberg: I would like to say that I welcome the significant increase in defence spending we have seen in Romania over the last years. This is really helping to improve burden sharing within the Alliance and of course, it also provides Romania with more funds for investing in modern capabilities. Equipping your armed forces and also, training, and funding Romanian contributions to NATO missions and operations. In Poland, in Afghanistan, in Kosovo and elsewhere. So, I welcome the strong increase in defence spending in Romania.

Second, I welcome the clear plan to reach the two percent target in 2019 and I expect all Allies to deliver on the pledge we all made together to spend two percent on defence, and Romania is very close and I hope that this year you will be able to reach that target. What we see is that more and more Allies are investing more in defence. Since 2016, European Allies from Canada have added forty-one billion extra US dollars to their defence budgets, and based on the national plans we have received from the Allies, we expect that number to increase to one hundred billion US dollars by the end of next year. So, we are making progress. Romania is part of that, but, of course, I hope that you also close that gap that still remains to fully reach the two percent.

President of Romania, Mr. Klaus Iohannis: Romania has committed to spending 2% of the GDP for defence. This is a huge amount given to our Defence, and, in the Supreme Council of National Defence, we discussed on these matters from the beginning and we realised that we have a great strategic opportunity here. We are able, for the first time in very many years, to approach the equipping of our armed forces strategically on a medium, almost long term. We have a ten-year plan, which enables the Ministry of Defence or the Armed Forces to makes purchases possible that had not at all been possible so far.  We have strategic equipment and purchases programmes and we are willing take them to full completion. Some of them have started very well and are going on. So we cannot say nothing is happening. It is happening. We do have strategic ongoing strategic programmes. Of course, practically, since the Revolution, we haven’t had the practice, the exercise of large strategic purchases programmes, so things move with a little bit of difficulty. You cannot pretend departments that have dealt with little purchasing to be extremely good at dealing with large strategic purchasing overnight. That is it, there may be some gaps, unexpected things may come and all these have to be coped with.

Every year, we discussed in the Supreme Council on National Defence how to tailor these strategic programmes and we are on track. The reason we cannot progress with the Corvettes is a question where the Ministry of Defence has to answer accurately. From my point of view, from the SCND view, the things are settled, the Government, more precisely the Ministry of Defence has to deliver on its commitments and I hope this is the approach of the Ministry of Defence, too. We will probably have the clear answer concerning the Corvettes when the ministry receives the answer to that complaint they sent, as they had – they say – some elements of uncertainty. But as a whole, we are sure of what we want. We have the funds available, because this is Romania’s commitment, not only of the Government’s, or only the SCND’s. It’s a commitment made by Romania and we will honour it thoroughly.  

Journalist: I would like you to comment on the detention of Canadians in China; taking into consideration, is there a wider international security issue? Is this of concern to you, as the chief of NATO? Thank you.

Secretary General of NATO, Mr. Jens Stoltenberg: I am following this case very closely and with concern and NATO Allies including Canada and United States have been clear that China should immediately release the two Canadians detained in December, and I call on Beijing to address Canada’s serious concerns. We have to remember that NATO was founded on some core values: democracy, individual liberty, and the rule of law. And that is also the reason why we follow this case with such great concern, and NATO expects that its citizens are treated fairly and with respect for due process. So, this is something which has been expressed by many Allies and we are concerned because we see that two Canadians were detained in December and we expect them to be treated fairly with respect for due process.