Bucharest, 7 October 2011 - AFGHAN TRANSITION, ARAB SPRING, MISSILE DEFENCE TOP AGENDA AT NATO PA ANNUAL SESSION
Afghanistan remains NATO’s top operational priority and the Alliance must remain engaged in the country even after its frontline military role is wound down after 2014, the President of NATO’s Parliamentary Assembly said Thursday as the Assembly opened its annual Session in Bucharest.
"It is in our interest that there will be a peaceful transition period and that we give the people of Afghanistan confidence that after finishing the military mission we will stand at their side to support economic development, education, building up good governance", Karl Lamers, president of the NATO PA told a press briefing ahead of the Session.
The Assembly’s annual Session brings together some 300 members of national parliaments from the 28 NATO nations and partner countries to discuss a range of issues including Afghanistan, NATO’s ongoing air campaign in Libya, plans to build an anti-ballistic missile defence shield in Europe, support for the new Arab democracies, relations with Russia and the situation in the Western Balkans. NATO’s Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen and the alliance’s top military official Adm. Giampaolo di Paola are scheduled to attend.
As the organization providing parliamentary oversight on NATO’s activities the Assembly acts as a bridge between the alliance and public opinion in the member nations. Lamers said the parliamentarians had a crucial role explaining to an often-skeptical public why the 130,000-strong NATO-led mission in Afghanistan was still needed.
During the session in Bucharest, the Assembly is due to vote on a resolution urging NATO governments to enhance their efforts to explain to citizens the ongoing need for the military operation and a post-2014 engagement in Afghanistan.
Turning to developments in the Arab world, Lamers said NATO parliamentarians should use their experience to help counterparts in the emerging North African democracies to strengthen pluralist political structures there.
Lamers welcomed the agreement on 19 September between Romania and the United States on locating elements of a NATO missile defense shield in Romania. "This is a vital contribution to security, not only for your country, but for the whole alliance", he said. He assured Russia that NATO’s missile defence plans did not pose a threat.
Lamers told NATO governments that current budget tightening should not undermine fundamental defence requirements. "We cannot compromise on our security, so we have no choice but to use our resources in a more efficient way", he concluded.