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Press statement by President von der Leyen and NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg

Met dank overgenomen van Europese Commissie (EC), gepubliceerd op dinsdag 15 december 2020.

Good afternoon,

Dear Jens,

It is a pleasure to have you here in the Berlaymont. It is a real first. It is the very first time that a Secretary-General of NATO is visiting the College of Commissioners of the European Commission. So a very warm welcome. It is a symbol, a sign for the very good cooperation we have between the European Commission and NATO, following joint declarations we had in 2016 and 2018, and this shows the depth of the relationship.

So the two of us, we meet on a regular basis, we have a long history of working together. Because of course, I have witnessed your outstanding leadership, in the five years I was as a Minister of Defence, in the NATO meetings. So I must really say: You have modernised, you have strengthened NATO in an outstanding way and that was really impressive for me to see that. Now here, the European Commission and NATO are good partners, but we could do more. We could be more strategic and we could prioritise better. So it is about topics like cyber-security and emerging technologies, it is about climate change and resilience.

First on cyber-security: We both know how important it is to protect critical networks and sensitive data. Today, in College, we are adopting a strategy to enhance cyber-security. We have a common interest to ensure that the hardware we rely on is safe. And we both want to fight disinformation that threatens our democracies. Indeed here too, today in College, we will adopt a package to regulate the digital platforms.

The second topic is climate change. Fighting climate change, as you know, is one of the top priorities of the European Union. And we know that global warming already causes severe geopolitical shifts. Climate change has become one of the most important security drivers - just think of, for example, the desertification of landscapes, or the conflicts and struggles for scarce resources like water or farm land, pasture land, following the effects and the impact of climate change. Indeed, a few weeks ago, the EEAS published a Climate Change and Defence Roadmap, proposing to integrate climate change into the European Union's defence actions. So I think one field where we can do a lot is - between Commission and NATO - that we share foresight, research, and that we cooperate on the measures we are taking. A wide field to work intensively together.

And the third topic is resilience. Many EU projects and a lot of funding under NextGenerationEU will have an impact on security. For example, military mobility benefits from the improvement of our railway systems. But also the investing in cyber-security; new power grids; artificial intelligence; data protection; of course the digital infrastructure like 5G, 6G is very important for Europe's economic development. But of course, it is also a key to mitigate possible threats, such as those threats in hybrid warfare. So there is a close link between the two organisations.

There is a lot of potential to re-energise the partnership between the European Commission and NATO. And I am very much looking forward towards our exchange today in College.

So thank you very much again for being here.

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