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Spotlight: NATO chief stresses NATO-EU cooperation in discussions with MEPs
BY 2017-05-04 08:38:51

BRUSSELS, May 3 (Xinhua) -- NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on Wednesday stressed NATO-EU cooperation and addressed the agenda of the upcoming NATO summit at a meeting with members of European Parliament (MEPs).

Addressing the European Parliament's foreign affairs committee and subcommittee on security and defense, Stoltenberg said a lot of progress has been made to deepen the cooperation between the European Union and the alliance since a joint declaration was signed in 2016. The meeting comes ahead of a key NATO summit in Brussels later this month, which U.S. President Donald Trump will attend.

The two blocs also agreed on a series of concrete measures to strengthen the cooperation on some key areas, including countering hybrid threats, maritime security and cyber defense.

During the meeting, growing EU-NATO cooperation to fight human trafficking in the Mediterranean and boost cyber defense capabilities were among the issues discussed between Stoltenberg and MEPs.

On the meeting of NATO leaders on May 25, Stoltenberg said, "This will be a short but very important meeting because it will be the first time Trump has come to NATO as president and it will also be the first one with the new French president."

He told the committee that the summit will focus on NATO's role in the fight against terrorism, as well as the transatlantic bond and fair burden-sharing.

"This meeting, however, will I believe send a strong message about the transatlantic resolve. It will specifically address burden sharing and the ongoing fight against terrorism," Stoltenberg said.

On terror, he said, "This is, of course, still a real threat as we have seen with several attacks in our capitals here in Europe. We have to fight back in many different ways and this will need a combination of political, military and economic measures."

Highlighting the progress made by the alliance on defense spending in the last two years, Stoltenberg called on NATO allies to keep up momentum.

While defense spending in western Europe returned to mild growth in 2016 following a six-year retreat, eastern Europe is currently one of the fastest growing regions in the world. defense expenditures in all countries in this sub-region are expected to be higher in 2021 than in 2016.

Stoltenberg, in his speech to parliamentarians, said that burden sharing was not just about spending but also about defense capabilities,adding, "We need more and modern capabilities in order to prevent conflicts and all of this will also be addressed at the NATO meeting."

He welcomed "stronger" European defense but underlined that what the EU does is "complimentary" to NATO and "does not compete with NATO".

"This should not be about creating new command structures that duplicate NATO or about establishing a European Army," he added.

Despite the security organization being branded as "obsolete" by Trump in January (Trump has since retracted this, saying the alliance is not obsolete), Stoltenberg voiced optimism in the long term viability of NATO.

Stoltenberg has long professed NATO priorities similar to Trumps, in particular boosting defense spending among the member states and fighting terrorism.

In his address to MEPs, Stoltenberg concluded, "What I can tell you is that NATO is adapting and responding to a more dangerous security climate and environment."

Reaction was swift, with David McAllister, chairman of European Parliament's foreign affairs committee, saying, "We all agree that NATO and the EU need to work together intensively. Both share the same threats and challenges."

He added, "We are convinced that all the challenges we are facing, such as war in Syria, terrorist ideology in Europe or developments in Western Balkans, should deepen our cooperation."

Many MEPs welcomed further deepening of relations between the two organizations. Some MEPs, however, contested calls to invest 2 percent of GDP in defense that are made without specifying what capabilities this would add.

(Editor:Li Zhaoqi) (From:xinhua)
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