Tallinn 25 May 2012 - NATO PARLIAMENTARY ASSEMBLY FOLLOWS UP CHICAGO SUMMIT: ECONOMIC CRISIS, AFGHAN TRANSITION TOP AGENDA AT SPRING SESSION
NATO nations must make good on their pledges at this week’s Chicago summit not to let the economic crisis undermine vital Alliance security needs, the head of NATO’s Parliamentary Assembly said Friday at the start of the its Spring Session.
“The ongoing economic crisis poses a real challenge,” said Dr. Karl A. Lamers, President of the NATO PA. “We must not react to this economic crisis by cutting our budgets and capabilities in a way that leads to a security crisis.”
The four-day session, being held for the first time in Estonia, brings together more than 250 lawmakers from 42 NATO nation and partner parliaments. Issues high on the agenda include the planned withdrawal of NATO combat troops in Afghanistan, the security implications of the Arab Spring and concerns over human rights in Ukraine.
However, the talks are overshadowed by the economic crisis in Europe and its impact on defence spending. At the NATO summit that wrapped up Monday in Chicago, leaders pledged to maximize the impact of military spending through a programme of “smart defence” that aims to avoid costly duplication by pooling and sharing scarce resources.
With the crisis estimated to have wiped more than $45 billion dollars from European defence budgets, Lamers said parliaments will be watching closely to ensure governments stick to the Chicago commitments and maximize the impact of military spending.
“Smart Defence cannot just be a technical process,” he told a news conference ahead of the session. “We need a new mindset: we need the strength, the political will and mutual trust to place collective interests and solidarity ahead of individual national concerns.”
Turning to Afghanistan, Lamers stressed the role of parliaments in explaining to the public the need for continued NATO engagement. He welcomed the Chicago commitment to continue support for Afghanistan after the scheduled transition of combat command to Afghan authorities by 2014, but again insisted Allied nations much make good on their pledges.
“We must not repeat past mistakes,” Lamers said. “We need a responsible handover, coordinated decisions on troop levels, and a sustainable post-2014 strategy.”
On Ukraine, Lamers demanded the immediate release of imprisoned former Prime MinisterYulia Tymoshenko so she can receive medical treatment abroad. NATO parliamentarians are scheduled to discuss Tymoschenko’s situation with Ukrainian lawmakers later Friday.
Lamer’s underscored the NATO PA’s willingness to boost co-operation with parliaments in North Africa and the Middle East in the wake of the Arab Spring. Delegations from Algeria, Jordan and Morocco are attending session in Tallinn.
Other issues on the agenda include Iran’s nuclear programme, relations with Russia, anti-piracy operations off the coast of Somalia, cybersecurity and illegal immigration across the Mediterranean.