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Today, we are going to have first the [Steering] Board of the European Defence Agency.
Nobody knows about what the European Agency is doing, and it is important to stress how important the reports of the European Defence Agency about our military capacities are. The agency – it is an inter-governmental agency – is charged by the Treaty [on the European Union] to study how the European armies can work better together.
They have been producing reports about our defence gaps. The differences between what do we need and what we have. The next European Union Council will discuss about it, and they will receive a report from the High Representative and the European Commission. We are working together with the Commission to study how much Europeans need to invest to increase their defence capabilities in front of the new threats and challenges that we are facing.
Today, we are going to study this report in order to contribute to the work of the [European] Commission and [for] the Heads of State and government to make decision about how the Europeans have to improve their defence capabilities. The more together, the better.
Then we are going to [discuss] about the situation in Ukraine. I will inform the Ministers about the decision to increase by €500 million more the contribution from the European Union budget. Well, not the European Union budget strictly speaking, but from the intergovernmental fund, the European Peace Facility, which is managed by the Member States.
We will also have a look of what is happening in Mali – you know that Mali announced their decision to leave the [G5 Sahel]. That is very bad news. That is very bad news because it weakens us in the situation in Mali.
We will talk also about the demands from Finland and Sweden to become members of NATO. They will receive strong support – I am sure – from all Member States. Because it increases our unity and it makes us stronger.
This is exactly the contrary of what [Vladimir] Putin wanted to achieve. He was trying to stop the development of NATO at the borders of Russia, and now the contrary is happening. I think that is very good news for the European Union, because it strengthens us, and it gives [us] more capacity in front of all the threats at our borders.
Q. You will meet with the Georgian Prime Minister [Irakli Garibashvili], what is the message from Europe to Georgia? Because it is a challenging time for all of us and we are waiting for candidate status and it is very important to talk with you.
I know. We will discuss it with Georgia, but it is something that is not in my competence. Membership of Georgia is an important issue, but it is the [European] Commission that is preparing its Opinion. The request has been presented and I will talk with him [Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili] about the situation in Georgia, but it [candidate status] is not my competence.
Q. But what will be your message to Georgia this time? Because Georgia also is threatened by Russia.
The same message as always – that we are going to support Georgia as much as we can to face the challenge. We know that Georgia, [the Republic of] Moldova feel the Russian threat and we will be ready to support them as we have been doing with Ukraine. But happily for them, they are not facing a war.
By the way, we are going to be joined (via VTC) by the Defence Minister of Ukraine [Oleksii Reznikov] and the [Deputy] Secretary General of NATO [Mircea Geoană]. We will discuss together, NATO and Ukraine, about the situation, about the war. The Ukrainians are resisting very fiercely, and the results of the war at this moment does not fulfill at all Russia’s expectations. The Russian army is being stopped by the Ukrainians, and we have to continue supporting them with arms. That is why, we will approve €500 million more from the Defence funds [European Peace Facility]. Also, it will be the first meeting with [General Robert Brieger, the new Chairman of the EU Military Committee], because General [Claudio] Graziano left, and I want to use this opportunity to [thank] him for all the work he has been doing.
Q. What is your view of Turkey’s objection to the two new members of NATO? Another worrying issue in the last few hours is Libya, where there are two rival governments. The Prime Minister of the House of Representatives has now arrived in Tripoli and the latest news we are hearing is that it has gone violent.
Believe me, the situation in Libya has become very grief in the last hours. Well, we were expecting something like this to happen, because in Libya we did not have an election, but we have two governments. Instead of having an election to have one government, they do not have elections and they have two governments. Sooner or later, when there are two governments, they clash. So, we are following extremely closely the situation in Libya, because Libya was in a relatively calm situation for some months, and now the war starts again. We will have to have a look at the situation there. It is very worrying what is happening.
And about Turkey, as I said, I am sure that the Council [will show] a strong support, the biggest possible support to the membership of Sweden and Finland to NATO. I know that Turkey has put some objections. I hope that NATO will be able to overcome them, but from my side and from the side of the Foreign Affairs Council (Defence), there is strong support for this membership.
Link to the video: https://audiovisual.ec.europa.eu/en/video/I-225479