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After this, I will take part in the virtual Meeting of NATO Foreign Ministers. A year ago, I proposed something of a “rejuvenation exercise” in order to make the North Atlantic Alliance fit for the challenges of the coming decades. Today we will discuss the first findings of the reflection process we initiated at the time, that is, the report drawn up under the co-chairmanship of Thomas de Maizière and Wess Mitchell. Our aim is, and remains, that NATO also becomes closer politically. We want to prepare well for the necessary decisions on what direction to take and we want to do so on the basis of our shared democratic values.
In a transatlantic partnership based on equality, there are also fields where we Europeans will have to take on even more responsibility. That is precisely why we will resolutely continue the course of the past years and keep working on a strong and sovereign Europe in NATO. After all, defending our own security and at the same time making the transatlantic partnership more balanced are simply two sides of the same coin. European sovereignty gives us the chance to become a united team, and most importantly a team that works well together, across the Atlantic once again.
We will also talk about Afghanistan today. And this discussion needs to happen. We want to ensure that we as NATO partners base further reductions in troop numbers in Afghanistan on very clear conditions. Afghanistan needs security and peace. The Afghan people’s rights, which have been so hard won in the past years, must be preserved in this process. In order to safeguard what has been achieved, we cannot rush anything now. That is why we support looking very closely as an alliance at the extent to which the conditions for reducing our troop numbers are in place, so that no false signals are sent to the peace process in particular.
Question (Haase, dpa): Foreign Minister, one reason for the planned “rejuvenation exercise” are the disputes and problems in NATO because of Turkey. However, Ankara has already expressed criticism of the reforms proposed by the group of experts. In view of this, can you tell us briefly which of the proposals you think can in fact be implemented and what you think should happen if it emerges that the reflection process actually widens the rifts between Turkey and NATO rather than healing them?
Foreign Minister Heiko Maas: My counterparts and I will talk about the various proposals – I think there are 138 of them – later today and we have agreed that we will first discuss them among ourselves. I think many NATO partners will have a problem with certain ideas, for example, a right of veto. Other topics are important to other members, also as regards NATO’s actual strategy in the next decade. So there will now be a discussion process, and there will be agreement, and there will probably also be criticism of certain proposals. We will have to agree on certain priorities. That’s why it is not a problem if Turkey, which is and will remain an important NATO partner, does not – cannot – agree with everything proposed by the expert group. I will certainly not start talking now about what might happen if.... In other words, what happens if the majority does not agree to large parts of this report or if there is no consensus in NATO. Following the discussions we conducted in recent months, particularly those that formed the basis for launching this reflection process, I have not encountered any NATO partner who was not of the opinion that there are things we could improve in the Alliance as regards internal decision-making processes and coordinating policy in NATO, but also as regards the foreign and security-policy strategy for the coming years. That’s why I’m glad this report has been produced. I think it contains a lot of good ideas that we now need to discuss among ourselves, but it doesn’t come as any surprise to me that there are different opinions on specific issues. I think this report contains quite a number of things that we should discuss extremely seriously in NATO.
Question (Deutsche Welle): Foreign Minister, you said that NATO should also become closer politically on the basis of democratic values. As regards dealing with China, what role do you see for NATO? Might NATO need to redefine itself as a democratic alliance?
Foreign Minister Heiko Maas: No, I do not think NATO needs to redefine itself as a democratic alliance. We need to talk about our priorities and we need to talk about how we work. I think there needs to be more policy coordination in NATO as regards identifying new formats in which the Defence and Foreign Ministers discuss policy guidelines. I think almost everyone who is engaged in NATO wants to see this happen. Naturally, we will need to think about our priorities. We will talk about what role NATO can play in the fight against international terrorism. We will also discuss to what extent the Alliance must deal more with the question of China. We are fundamentally of the opinion that NATO’s foundations – namely foreign and security policy, particularly as regards transatlantic interests, also with a view to Russia – must remain at the heart of our endeavours to preserve peace in Europe and beyond; no one denies that China is a topic we need to address, but when we talk about disarmament, for example, this is an area where it is absolutely vital that China be included to a greater extent in the global disarmament architecture than was the case in the past. And NATO can certainly help here.