17 November 2006 - BERT KOENDERS ELECTED TO HEAD NATO PA, PLEDGES ACTION ON AFGHANISTAN [PRESS COMMUNIQUÉ]
Dutch Parliamentarian Mr Bert Koenders was today elected as the new President of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly (NATO-PA), the Atlantic Alliance’s parliamentary arm.
Mr Koenders, 48, a former Vice-President of the Assembly, was unanimously chosen for a two-year term at the Assembly's annual session in Quebec City.
Much of the five day session in Quebec, which began on Monday, has been taken up by a debate over NATO's mission in Afghanistan where the host country, Canada, has troops.
In his acceptance speech, Mr Koenders returned to the topic. He pledged to pressure NATO governments to take "as a matter of urgency" a political initiative on Afghanistan during the upcoming summit of heads of state and government in Riga, Latvia later this month.
"I am very concerned that in Riga there will be no political initiative and no sense of urgency - particularly over Afghanistan. That would be a great mistake. The mission in Afghanistan is critical.
"Critical, first and foremost, to the future for the Afghan people and their chance of a decent future. But ALSO critical because it stands for more: NATO's aspirations to play a substantial role in dealing with contemporary challenges," he said.
Mr Koenders told fellow parliamentarians that we need to better "synchronize security and development and establish a better balance between offensive operations and reconstruction" and make a renewed effort to win "hearts and minds" by emphasising the need for "respect and adherence to humanitarian law and the Geneva convention".
He also stressed that NATO must deploy the required capabilities. "One hundred percent means one hundred percent," he declared.
The NATO PA consists of some 248 delegates from 26 member states. Delegates from associate countries and Parliamentary Observer delegations also attend its bi-annual sessions.
Mr Koenders pledged that during his Presidency, he would continue "our own unique selling point: investing in new partnerships" and focus on the following areas:
- providing assistance to countries in transition;
- the focus on countries of the Balkans where much remains to be done and where the "Adriatic three" are next in line for NATO membership;
- Intensify links with our three partners in the Caucasus based on our core values of democracy and freedom
- intensify our work with partners in the Mediterranean Dialogue.
"I would like to develop further our links with national parliaments and with NATO authorities to the greatest degree possible. I stand for a good political dialogue with the NATO Council and I want to make sure more Reports will be discussed in our national parliaments," he concluded.