Lunedì, 22 Ottobre 2018
ROME

Letta confirms NATO commitments, eyes defence savings

English
© ANSA

Rome, July 25 - Premier Enrico Letta confirmed
Italy's commitment to its operations with NATO on Thursday but
said he was looking for European defence savings, after a
meeting with the organization's secretary-general, Anders Fogh
Rasmussen, on Thursday.
These commitments include Italy's involvement in the
NATO-led ISAF mission in Afghanistan until the withdrawal of
foreign forces next year.
"It's with pleasure that I met NATO's secretary general and
I confirmed Italy's commitments to the alliance," Letta told a
news conference adding that he will visit Afghanistan on August
12.
Letta stressed, however, that ways had to be found to make
savings in European defence spending ahead of December's EU
summit, which will have defence as one of the top issues on the
agenda.
"The issue of defence costs is linked to the fact that, at
the European level, we have to work to avoid duplications and
overlaps to save money and be more efficient in the military
structure," Letta said.
"It will be important to achieve a significant decision (at
December's summit)".
Rasmussen has been critical of defence cuts adopted in
recent years by NATO member states during the economic crisis
and warned there may be consequences.
"Italy's commitment to the NATO alliance is even more
important at a moment in which all our (member) countries have
to make difficult budget choices," Rasmussen told a news
conference.
"Security has a cost, but insecurity has a cost that we
cannot allow".
Later on Thursday, Rasmussen told ANSA that he hoped to see
defence spending increased when Europe emerges from the current
economic crisis.
''Having held the post of prime minister (of Denmark), I
can understand how difficult it is from a political point of
view, to justify spending cuts in welfare, schooling and the
health sector but not on defence,'' Rasmussen said.
''I am, however, appealing to European nations to boost
investments in this sector when the economies have recovered".
He warned that otherwise Europe risks losing its lead role
in the international arena, Rasmussen said.
Italian Defence Minister Mario Mauro, meanwhile, said the
Italian government is continuing its support of former foreign
minister Franco Frattini in his bid to replace Rasmussen at the
helm of NATO.
The government, currently a left-right coalition led by
Premier Enrico Letta, has changed since Frattini, who served
under three-time premier Silvio Berlusconi, made his candidacy
known.
Rasmussen completes his term June next year and talks
surrounding his successor officially begin this fall. Analysts
say Frattini is among the most credible candidates.
Rasmussen said Frattini is a valid candidate, but added
that it was premature to raise this issue.
"I know Frattini very well, we worked together for many
years. He is a very competent politician", Rasmussen told ANSA.
"Even so, it is really too soon to talk about my successor.
I still have another year ahead of me and I am very concentrated
on what needs to be done".

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