with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and the Minister of Defence of Portugal, José Azeredo Lopes ...

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with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and the Minister of Defence of Portugal, José Azeredo Lopes ...

Joint press conference

with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and the Minister of Defence of Portugal, José Azeredo Lopes

  • 26 Jan. 2018 -
  • |
  • Last updated: 27 Jan. 2018 11:50

(As delivered)

Thank you so much. And it’s a great honour to be here and to once again meet with you.

We have met many many times, but this is actually our first meeting in Lisbon. And for me it is a great honour to be here because Portugal is such a key Ally in our Alli ance.

Portugal makes NATO more secure - on land, at sea, in the air and also in cyber-space. We are very grateful for your many contributions.

On land, your troops serve with NATO's multinational brigade in Romania.

In the air, your jets have kept the skies secure over the Black Sea region.

At sea, you are contributing to NATO maritime operations again and again.

And in cyberspace, NATO's state of the art cyber academy is being built here in Portugal. And we just visited the site where the new Academy for communications, information and cyber is now going to be built.

When this Academy is finished, thousands of students will attend courses there every year, which just strengthens the position of Portugal as a key Ally in our Alliance.

Let me also say that we are grateful for the way Portugal is supporting and contributing to different NATO missions and operations, also beyond our borders, not least by the fact that you are s upporting our Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan. And also the fact that you have decided to increase your presence in Afghanistan

And it’s important to remember that the reason why NATO is present in Afghanistan is that we are fighting terrorism; we have to prevent that Afghanistan once again becomes a safe haven for international terrorism.

NATO is also fighting terrorism in other ways. We support the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS. NATO is a full member and we provide support to the Global Coalition by training Iraqi soldiers and officers. And also with our AWACS surveillance planes supporting the air operations of the Global Coalition.

The Atlantic Ocean is what binds our Alliance together. We are a transatlantic Alliance â€" North America and Europe â€" and therefore we also focus on the importance of burden sharing within the Alliance.

Burden sharing is not only about spending, but it’s also about providing modern military capabilities and contributing personnel, soldiers, to our operations.

But it’s also about investing in our defenses. So at our NATO Summit in 2014 in Wales, all Allies made a pledge to stop the cuts in defence spending, gradually increase and move towards spending 2% of GDP on defence.

I welcome that Portugal has stopped the cuts in defence spending and also that we have started to increase.

But I also expect that you will continue because we need more investments from many NATO Allies to make sure that we are delivering on the promise and the pledge we made back in 2014.

So once again, thank you for an excellent day here in Lisbon, where we have had many important discussions and where we have addressed how we together, as an Alliance, can continue to respond and adapt to a new and more demanding security environment.

QUESTION (Expresso Newspaper): I am Louisa Meireles from Expresso. Minister, when you talk about investing more in maritime sec urity is our aim, now with the group in São Tomé, what do you mean?

JOSÉ AZEREDO LOPES (Portuguese Minister of Defence): Well, what I mean is that we need to invest more in the Atlantic security centre and our… also reflects our strategy to strengthen our naval capabilities and capacity building in maritime security. I can provide further examples: as you know, we are involved in different missions in the Gulf of Guinea, we are a member of the Friends of this, the Friends of this Gulf. There has been more and more interventions and which we hope it's going to be more coherent and we'll keep on working with our friends and Allies.

And if you look at our presence in the Atlantic and the actual size of the areas that we are surveilling and overseeing, so if we understand this, we'll then be able to work in further mission, not only with São Tomé, Cape Verde, and we will be working with other states whenever this capacity buildin g be necessary.

Let me give you another example that may be or may sound a bit far fetched, but it's not, and I'm talking about defence of Sial [phonetic] (15:53) As you know, this area, this band over the Central Republic and the strengthening of armed forces in Mauritania, and we are proposing that in this capacity building, or this capacity building will also include the maritime dimension.

And let me provide you further recent examples on how our navy has worked in different fields, like in cartography, which somehow represented a direct contribution, that will certainly help those states to better management the, their territorial wars.

QUESTION (RTP): Good afternoon, I am Lígia Veríssimo from RTP, a TV channel. I have two questions. Two questions. The command structure is being revisited. Will this affect Portugal? We had a command, a NATO command in the past. Today we don’t. Has this been discussed? What is the state of play?

And then I have a more sensitive question: We've had some security issues in our military side, I would like to know if this was discussed and I would like to know if NATO has expressed any concerns regarding these issues?

JOSÉ AZEREDO LOPES: Regarding the second question, it's not sensitive at all. The answer is no. Regarding the first question, the Secretary General has already mentioned the need of NATO to adapt and what is being studied is a new command structure to tackle challenges that could not be tackled by the current command structure, and also to make the organisation more robust. Portugal supports this initiative. We are not discussing sites. We usually confuse this matter, who will get what, but we are discussing how can we make NATO a better prepared structure to ensure our security and defence, and maybe the Secretary General, if he so decides, that he could talk about the command structure, this new command st ructure.

JENS STOLTENBERG (NATO Secretary General): Well, as the Minister just said, this is an adaption of the command structure which we haven’t just decided. We have received recommendations from our strategic commanders, from our military authorities, and now we are going to discuss it and also make decisions at the Defence Ministerial Meeting in NATO in February. There we will hopefully decide on - what I say - are the main elements, decide the structure, but not decide on the specific geographic footprint. That will be decided later. But what I can say is that we have adapted a command structure before, after the end of the Cold War, then we scaled it down, then we reduced the command structure, so actually we closed many commands around in Europe. Now the recommendation from the… from the military authorities or from our strategic commanders is, is a small increase. So, it's a very different situation compared to what we saw earlier, whe n we scaled down the NATO command structure, that’s not the plan this time, and therefore I cannot be more detailed about the exact geographic footprint because those decisions will be taken after we have decided the structure, the different elements, and hopefully we'll do that in February.

QUESTION (Radio Naciensa): Ana Rodrigues from Radio Naciensa. Minister, the Secretary General of NATO talked about the importance of the Atlantic and Portugal has certain capabilities that are recognised by NATO, was Portugal asked any specific contribution? And I would also like to ask, Portugal as a security producer? Portugal will participate in different NATO missions in 2018, but Portugal also has other missions and you’ve mentioned the example of São Tomé and Principe, but how are these resources managed?

JOSÉ AZEREDO LOPES: We always take into account the scarcity of resources. Notwithstanding that, it's the third year d uring which we've been able to strengthen our budget related with the external protection of Portugal and this… for the third consecutive year, this budget for this kind of forces and missions increased. The participation of Portugal in this type of forces follows three main guidelines and these are all always present in the Portuguese Foreign Policy and Portuguese Defence Policy. Portugal is a founding member of NATO and this is also expressed in the way we participate in NATO's missions or operations.

In 2018, there was a 10% increase in the number of Portuguese militaries involved in NATO initiatives and this clearly shows our commitment to the operational nature of NATO. But, as you well know, we decided to discontinue our presence in Kosovo, but the Portuguese government assumed a commitment that we would replace the land mission regarding our... discontinuation of our presence in KFOR, although there are still ten military present. When Portugal realises that, since 2016, we had been discussing the crucial need to strengthen our presence in the resolute support, we said, "Yes, we are available", and I believe this was clearly stated, since our commitment for 2018, I believe, compensates the decision not to be present any longer in Afghanistan.

Regarding the second part of your question, it's a very important part of the Defence Policy. We believe that our contribution should be as relevant as possible to the peacekeeping dimension and this is of course a reason for concern for us and for NATO, taking into account of course the difficulties that exist in certain territories and, for reasons I'm not going to discuss now, in the last few years we were not very present in UN missions. And following the Paris terrorist attacks, Portugal decided to give a positive answer to what was requested to by friends in the West African Republic, and we have assumed the command of the mission of the European Union.

There is no contradiction whatsoever regarding our security and defence. This is within the NATO framework. In the example given before, if there are threats that may put at stake other territories and our own security, our duty is to say, "We are present and available". Our commitment to NATO does not entail neglecting other missions, especially if you take into account the peacekeeping within the UN. The São Tomé and Principe mission is an innovative and important mission because, instead of training or capacity building missions, in this case we shall have, in a Portuguese vessel, military forces of São Tomé and they will themselves enforce their sovereignty and jurisdiction, and together we will take care of a need that we all share. It's not specific to Portugal, the US, France of Italy. The Atlantic, if it's not a secure communication space, we will all suffer. If we consider international maritime trade and it… many take place in risk are as, such as the Guinea Gulf, we will contribute towards the decrease of threats on the North. And when I talk about the Atlantic again, we must speak about NATO, as the Secretary General said, in the furthest to the north part of the Atlantic, we have reasons of concern and threats that we believe to be confined to the east flank, but they have been expanding and we know that they are now getting close to the territorial Portuguese waters. So, this Atlantic dimension of NATO is something that enables to recover our heritage, as an organisation. It's the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and we are only being loyal to our name.

QUESTION (Lusa News Agency): Good afternoon, I am from Agência Lusa. My question is to you, Secretary General. Not too long ago, the Minister of Defence spoke about the Atlantic Security Centre at Lajes in The Azores. I would like to ask you what do you expect and how do you see the creation of this centre? Do you think it can be considered… or it will come to be an excellence centre for NATO? Also, regarding the restructury of commanding structure that is now underway, do you consider that Portugal can be seen as providing an added value to this structure? Thank you. No, I mean I'm talking about… are you going to create a new command for the Atlantic or that [inaudible] or to the land forces? Do you think that Portugal may be eligible to actually host such a command?

JENS STOLTENBERG: First on this NATO Security Centre which Portugal is planning to establish, I was informed about that during my visit today. My understanding is that this is a centre of excellence, and that is something which different nations initiate and then it has to be, in a way, approved or accredited by NATO. We have not started that process, as far as I am aware of, but we welcome all initiatives to strengthen NATO's understanding and NATO's abilities to analyse and to respond t o all challenges related to the Atlantic. So, well that’s an interesting proposal, it's something ... we welcome all initiatives that can strengthen our ability to deal with the challenges we see related to the Atlantic in many different ways.

When it comes to the command structure, there are many elements there, but one element which is of course important for all countries which are bordering the Atlantic, including Portugal, and of course also for the whole Alliance, is that there is a proposal to establish a new command for the Atlantic and that’s one of the elements we will decide on when we meet in February, so next month, the Defence Ministers.

As I said, there has been no decision on the geographic footprint, so therefore it would be wrong if I start to speculate, but I welcome proposals, initiatives, from Portugal. Portugal has a lot of maritime understanding and important maritime capabilities and capacities. And today actually, I visited Stri ke Force NATO, which is something which is important for the whole Alliance, it's important for Portugal, but it also underlines Portugal's key role in addressing maritime challenges in general and the Atlantic in particular.

So, we are now in the process of making decisions and the first decision is to decide on whether we will have a new Atlantic command, or a command for the Atlantic, and then we will decide the different elements, including the geographic footprint. But I welcome initiatives and proposals from Portugal.

Source: Google News Portugal | Netizen 24 Portugal

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