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INTERVIEW. NATO Secretary General after launching his annual report: Among European Allies, Romania is taking a step forward and invests heavily in new defence capabilities

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”I want to commend Romania because it invests heavily in new defence capabilities. Romania has announced that it will achieve NATO’s 2% target for military spending in 2018, which reflects the fact that among European Allies Romania is taking a step forward.In 2018, but also in 2017, Romania has invested heavily and increased defence spending significantly. Romania is taking major steps towards strengthening its armed forces. I welcome this, and the investments have long-term effect. The most important is that all Allies, including Romania, meet the capability target”, says Jens Stoltenberg, the Secretary General of NATO, in an exclusive interview CaleaEuropeana.ro after publishing the organisation’s annual report.

Dan Cărbunaru: Mr. Secretary General, thank you for accepting this interview for CaleaEuropeana.ro on this special occasion of the annual report release. What are the main elements that indicate the progress NATO has made in the last year to defend its members?

Jens Stoltenberg: The main elements are the fact that we adapt to a challenging security environment with a more assertive Russia. We did this by deploying battle groups in the Baltic countries and Poland, but also by increasing our presence in the Black Sea region, especially in Romania, in what we called the tailored forward presence adapted by the multinational brigade led by Romania. We have stepped up our presence in the Black Sea and have stepped up our forces’ readiness to be deployed quickly if needed. The main point is that we need to be strong, united, but at the same time send a message to Russia that we are willing to engage in a political dialogue, talk to Russia, reduce tensions, because Russia is our neighbour and we do not want a new Cold War.

D.C.: You mentioned in the report presented today that NATO will not enter a new arms race. However, do you think that NATO is ready to prevent all threats that Russia seems willing to show?

J.S.: Yes. NATO is the most powerful Alliance in history. We are by far the strongest military alliance in the world today and we are able to provide credible deterrence and defence. We are capable and ready to defend all our allies against any threat. The reason why NATO is a successful alliance is that we are able to change ourselves as the world changes. Now the world is changing and that is why we are changing NATO. Both through collective defence in Europe and through our efforts to fight terrorism.

D.C.: You mentioned the level of unprecedented cooperation with the European Union. Recently, EU defence ministers have agreed on the first list of 17 PeSCo defence projects, one of them referring to military mobility. NATO also decided to transform its command structure in this regard. What are the next steps for NATO-EU cooperation on this issue?

J.S .: I think one of the most important areas in which we have to work together is the field of military mobility. Let us make sure that we can quickly deploy forces within Europe. This means investing in infrastructure, making sure we have the means of transport and removing the legal barriers that make it difficult to cross borders. We have adopted over 70 concrete measures in cyber, hybrid, maritime and counter-terrorism. We want to make concrete projects and work with the EU. I believe that military mobility is a flagship for NATO and the European Union.

D.C.: You made references to Russia in your report today. How does NATO see Russia’s new strategic weapons announcement and their supposedly untraceable feature by NATO’s defence systems? Also, how do you see the dialogue with Moscow under a new term of Vladimir Putin?

J.S.: I will not comment on the results of the Russian elections before they take place. What I can say is that we will continue with a dual track approach to Russia: strong deterrence and defence, combined with political dialogue. We are looking for a better relationship with Russia. We need to be strong and provide credible deterrence. I want to commend Romania because it invests heavily in new defence capabilities. Romania has announced that it will achieve NATO’s 2% target for military spending in 2018, which reflects the fact that among European Allies Romania is taking a step forward.

D.C.: Romania has begun to modernise its military and defence capabilities by F-16 squadrons, Patriot missile defence systems, HIMARS missiles, armoured conveyors and multifunctional corvettes. Would it be exaggerated to say that this is the most important year for Romania in NATO since its accession?

J.S.: At least 2018 will be an important year. In 2018, but also in 2017, Romania has invested heavily and increased defence spending significantly. Romania is taking major steps towards strengthening its armed forces. I welcome this, and the investments have long-term effect. The most important is that all Allies, including Romania, meet the capability target.

D.C.: Recently, in Bucharest, President Klaus Iohannis had a meeting with NATO Defence Ministers on the Eastern Flank. We will have a summit in Brussels this summer and there is a great expectation from the Eastern countries to have a greater NATO involvement in defending this area.

J.S.: NATO has already decided and is in the process of expanding its presence in the east of the Alliance, the Black Sea region, Poland and the Baltic countries. We have a tailored forward presence , we have battle groups, air police and, most importantly, we increase our ability to move our forces quickly when needed. We’ve tripled the number of our response forces. We have the anti-missile defence system in which Romania is an important part by hosting the NATO anti-missile system.

 

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Robert Lupițu este redactor-șef, specialist în relații internaționale, jurnalist în afaceri europene și NATO. Robert este laureat al concursului ”Reporter și Blogger European” la categoria Editorial și co-autor al volumelor ”România transatlantică” și ”100 de pași pentru o cetățenie europeană activă”. Face parte din Global Shapers Community, o inițiativă World Economic Forum, și este Young Strategic Leader în cadrul inițiativelor The Aspen Institute. Din 2019, Robert este membru al programului #TT27 Leadership Academy organizat de European Political Strategy Center, think tank-ul Comisiei Europene.

ENGLISH

MEP Vasile Blaga: It’s vital that Romania continues to implement regional and local programmes through the EU cohesion package

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MEP Vasile Blaga (PNL, EPP) welcomes the positive vote of the Council of the European Union for the Cohesion Package 2021-2027 worth €330 billion, of which Romania will benefit from around €28 billion.

“The European Union’s main investment programme is cohesion policy. As far as Romania is concerned, the cohesion funds must continue to finance the development gaps between the older Member States and those that have integrated later. It is vital that Romania continues to implement regional and local programmes. At the same time, investments financed by the cohesion funds will to a large extent also ensure recovery from the pandemic, alongside the funds specifically earmarked through the NRDP”, said the NLP MEP for the news platform Calea Europeana.

According to MEP Vasile Blaga, “the two funding programmes must be complementary, both having sustainable objectives – from infrastructure funding to green transition and digitalisation projects”.

”The European Parliament will now vote on the Council’s position before it is published in the Official Journal of the European Union in June, most likely during the plenary session in Strasbourg”, added the EPP MEP.

The Council gave its final green light to the adoption of the cohesion package for the financial period 2021-2027.

The package is a set of regulations governing the structural and investment funds, which amount to more than €330 billion (in 2018 prices) or nearly one third of the EU’s long-term budget. The funds will finance regional and local projects designed to reduce economic and social disparities between member states and regions, while boosting a sustainable recovery from the pandemic by investing in green and digital priorities.

 

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Europe Day. MEP Vasile Blaga: EU solidarity in the face of the pandemic has proved that this project is the only option for Romania’s present and future

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© Vasile Blaga/Facebook

9 May is a double anniversary, Romania’s Independence Day and Europe Day, two fundamental milestones for Romania, said MEP Vasile Blaga (PNL, EPP), in a message for Europe Day.

”We honour the past of our country which, on 9 May 1877, gained independence. We celebrate, also today, 9 May 1950 – the Schuman declaration which laid the foundations of the European Union,” he said.

“I would like each of us to ask ourselves a simple question: Where would we be now without integration into the European Union. What would this particularly turbulent period have looked like in Romania outside the EU? The Union’s solidarity in the face of the pandemic has proved to everyone that this project is strong, solid, and the only option for Romania’s present and future. I would like every Romanian who still has a trace of Euroscepticism to ask themselves these questions. They have only one answer – Romania is Europe – in the past, present, and future”, added the Romanian MEP.

Europe Day held on 9 May every year celebrates peace and unity in Europe. The date marks the anniversary of the historic ‘Schuman declaration‘. At a speech in Paris in 1950, Robert Schuman, the then French foreign minister, set out his idea for a new form of political cooperation in Europe, which would make war between Europe’s nations unthinkable.

His vision was to create a European institution that would pool and manage coal and steel production. A treaty creating such a body was signed just under a year later. Schuman’s proposal is considered to be the beginning of what is now the European Union.

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EXCLUSIVE Klaus Iohannis, Emmanuel Macron and other 19 EU heads of states, joint letter to Europeans on Europe Day: Let’s talk about Europe and find a way forward together

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The European project is a project of peace and reconciliation and we need a strong and effective European Union, is the message conveyed by President Klaus Iohannis and twenty others EU heads of states in a joint letter addressed to the European citizens on the occasion of Europe Day to invite them to join the Conference on the Future of Europe which will be officially launched tomorrow, 9th of May.

We invite you to join the discussion and help find a way forward together” – urge the Presidents of Romania, Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia and Slovenia, in a common message exclusively released to CaleaEuropeană.ro.

The letter is entitled “Let’s talk about Europe” and is co-signed by all the Presidents of the EU Member States:

“We would like to extend our best wishes to all European citizens on the occasion of Europe Day.

This Europe Day is special. For the second year in a row, we are celebrating it in the challenging circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic. We sympathise with all those who have suffered because of it.

This year’s Europe Day is also special because it marks the beginning of the Conference on the Future of Europe. We call on all EU citizens to use this unique opportunity to shape our common future.

The circumstances surrounding this discussion on the future of Europe are very different from those of previous years. It may seem that there is not sufficient time for an in-depth discussion on the future of Europe in the current situation. On the contrary, the COVID-19 pandemic has reminded us of what is truly important in our lives: our health, our relationship with nature, our relationships with our fellow human beings, mutual solidarity and working together. It has opened up questions about the way we live our lives. It has showed the strengths of European integration, as well as its weaknesses. We need to talk about all of this.

The challenges we face as Europeans are manifold: from tackling the climate crisis and the creation of green economies, while concurrently balancing the increasing competition among the global actors, to striving for the digital transformation of our societies. We will need to develop new methods and new solutions. As democracies, our strength lies in engaging the many voices of our societies to identify the best way forward. The more people participate in a broad and open-minded discussion, the better for our Union.

The European project is unprecedented in history. It has been 70 years since the signing of the Treaty establishing the European Coal and Steel Community, and 64 since the birth of the European Community in Rome. At that time, European leaders found ways to unify war-torn Europe. Thirty years ago, Europe’s East and West began to connect more closely. Very different countries joined together to form the European Union. Each country has its own historical experiences and burdens of the past, which it deals with on its own and in its relations with other countries.

The European project is a project of peace and reconciliation. It has been so since its conception and remains so today. We advocate for a common strategic vision for Europe, a Europe that is whole, free, united and at peace.

All the fundamental principles of European integration remain extremely relevant today: freedom, equality, respect for human rights, the rule of law and freedom of expression, solidarity, democracy and loyalty among the Member States. How can we jointly ensure that these fundamental principles of European integration remain relevant for the future?

Although the European Union may sometimes seem ill-equipped to face the many challenges that have arisen over the last decade – from the economic and financial crisis to the challenges in working towards a just and equitable EU migration system and the ongoing pandemic – we are aware that it would be much harder for each of us if we were alone. How can we best strengthen European cooperation and solidarity and make sure that we emerge from the health crisis in a way that makes us more resilient to future challenges?

We need a strong and effective European Union, a European Union that will be a global leader in the transition to sustainable, climate neutral, and digitally supported development. We need a European Union we can all identify with, certain in the knowledge that we have done our utmost for the benefit of future generations. Together, we can achieve this.

The Conference on the Future of Europe will be an opportunity to talk openly about the European Union and to listen our citizens, especially young people. It creates a space for dialogue, conversation and discussions on of what we expect from the EU tomorrow and what we can contribute today.

We need to think about our common future; therefore, we invite you to join the discussion and help find a way forward together.

Klaus Iohannis

President of Romania

Alexander Van der Bellen

President of the Republic of Austria

Rumen Radev

President of the Republic of Bulgaria

Zoran Milanović

President of the Republic of Croatia

Nicos Anastasiades

President of the Republic of Cyprus

Miloš Zeman

President of the Czech Republic

Kersti Kaljulaid

President of the Republic of Estonia

Sauli Niinistö

President of the Republic of Finland

Emmanuel Macron

President of the French Republic

Frank-Walter Steinmeier

President of the Federal Republic of Germany

Katerina Sakellaropoulou

President of the Hellenic Republic

János Áder

President of the Republic of Hungary

Michael D. Higgins

Uachtarán na hÉireann

President of Ireland

Sergio Mattarella

President of the Italian Republic

Egils Levits

President of the Republic of Latvia

Gitanas Nausėda

President of the Republic of Lithuania

George Vella

President of the Republic of Malta

Andrzej Duda

President of the Republic of Poland

Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa

President of the Portuguese Republic

Zuzana Čaputová

President of the Slovak Republic

Borut Pahor

President of the Republic of Slovenia

The idea for the letter was initiated by the President of the Republic of Slovenia Borut Pahor and the President of the Italian Republic Sergio Mattarella during their meeting in Rome and was later developed in cooperation with all the Presidents of the EU Member States.

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