“The European Union should reaffirm its competence in defense”

Portugal’s Minister of Defense Azeredo Lopes said on Monday it was vital for the European Union to reaffirm its competence in defense without having to diminish the role of NATO.

“We need to reaffirm our own capacities to assure our defense and our safety, without decreasing NATO’s role,” Azeredo said during a joint press conference with his Spanish, French and Italian counterparts in Porto, northern Portugal.

“I think we have proven that we need to find a balanced, ambitious and European path of more responsibility in what concerns defense,” he said, adding that the EU and NATO maintain a “healthy relationship.”

He also said he was confident in the continuation of transatlantic relations, pointing out that US President Donald Trump had confirmed his presence at the NATO Summit in May.

According to the Portuguese minister, the presence confirmation along with the frank and important conversation between the US president and the secretary general of NATO are signs that contradict a tendency that some think could be catastrophic.

He said he faced transatlantic relations in terms of defense very serenely, and added that NATO had the competence to face challenges.

The four ministers belonging to the “Southern Quartet” on Monday discussed different positions on the transatlantic relation between NATO partners, the acting model of the southern alliance, and ways to reinforce the capacities of European defense, according to Portuguese Lusa News Agency.

Monday’s meeting comes ahead of a defense ministers’ conference to be attended by ministers of defense from 28 NATO countries in Brussels on Feb. 15-16, including new US Defense Secretary James Mattis.