NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg Friday took part in a European Union summit to discuss security and defense priorities for the alliance.
Stoltenberg joined European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and European Council President Charles Michel at EU headquarters in Brussels where they addressed other EU leaders by videoconference.
Ahead of the meeting, at a news briefing with Michel, Stoltenberg said NATO troops are working with civilian efforts to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, helping to set up military field hospitals, transporting patients and medical equipment, among other efforts. He said their main focus is to ensure a health crisis does not become a security crisis.
But Stoltenberg said, the main role of the alliance is to act as a link between North America and Europe, and he welcomed the strong message from U.S. President Joe Biden regarding his commitment to rebuilding alliances with Europe.
Michel agreed saying he is “totally convinced” the Biden administration offers a unique opportunity to strengthen the partnership between NATO and the EU.
At a news briefing following the security meeting, Von der Leyen said cooperation with NATO was a top priority, but, reflecting the views of other key EU members, said the bloc, “as a whole, has more tasks for stabilization and security than the tasks within NATO. And for that, we have to be prepared.”
EU members Germany and France have been pressing for “strategic autonomy” within the bloc, particularly after what they called former U.S. president Donald Trump’s ambiguous attitude towards traditional U.S. European allies. They said they believe Europe has to be able to stand alone.
The French news agency reports a draft of conclusions from Friday’s meeting indicates the bloc’s leadership will reaffirm that “in the face of increased global instability, the EU needs to take more responsibility for its security,” but no concrete new announcements are expected.