15 November 2006 - NATO PA’S OUTGOING PRESIDENT EXPRESSES CONCERNS FOR NATO’S FUTURE [PRESS COMMUNIQUÉ]
Outgoing President of the NATO PA, Pierre Lellouche, in an address to the Assembly members spoke of his concern for the future of the NATO alliance.
Mr Lellouche told fellow parliamentarians attending the NATO PA's annual session in Quebec City that both the United States and European Union states needed to make a greater commitment to ensure the survival of the political and military alliance which won the Cold war.
"I must admit that I am concerned about the fate of the Atlantic Alliance… I have my concerns, first of all because our American friends and allies do not give me the impression of having truly chosen a direction for the future of the Alliance," he told a reception hosted by the Canadian parliament.
Mr Lellouche said that after the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Centre the US had by-passed the alliance during the "first phase of the war in Afghanistan and then Iraq".
He said he was also concerned by the "unilateral budgetary disarmament" of many European countries and appealed for increased efforts to cement the transatlantic alliance.
"But I am also concerned about the non-existence of the famous European pillar of the Alliance. Although Europe is delighted with its famous ESDP, the European Security and Defence Policy, in actuality, with the exception of Great Britain and France, Europe is in a process of unilateral budgetary disarmament," he said
Mr Lellouche noted that the European Union, with a population one and a half times larger than the United States and a higher GDP, spends only 40% of what the United States devotes to military expenditure and can put only 10% of its combat forces into external theatres of operation.
"Unilateralism on one side, verbal incantation on the other, the outcome could be tragic, as we are now seeing in Afghanistan where, if we are not careful, NATO - which is now covering all of the Afghan territory - risks being placed in a difficult situation militarily by the Taliban due to a lack of sufficient resources in the field. An Alliance retreat, in the form of a somewhat organised withdrawal, would be a terrible blow to its credibility," he noted.
The NATO PA's annual five-day session has been dominated by Afghanistan where many parliamentarians fear the alliance is in danger of failing to achieve its stated aims of bringing peace and stability to a country devastated by more than 20 years of conflict.
"Solidarity between free, democratic nations is an imperative … but the principles upheld by the Alliance can only have real meaning if it is efficient in the field. In this regard Afghanistan is the most important mission being led today by NATO," he said.
The NATO PA, the parliamentary arm of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), consists of some 248 delegates from 26 member states. Delegates from 13 associate countries and four Mediterranean countries also attend the session.