International tension heightens role of NATO Parliamentary Assembly
The Hague, 21 November 2014 – NATO’s Parliamentary Assembly opens its 60th session this week at a time when heightened security threats are underlining its crucial role as a link between the North Atlantic defence Alliance and its citizens, the Assembly’s president said Friday.
“The public are demanding more openness and transparency from NATO,” NATO PA President Hugh Bayley told a news conference Friday, adding that the Assembly had a “mission to explain to the public of our countries why we need to provide security for our citizens on a collective basis.”
To that end, NATO’s new Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg will be making his first major public speech about NATO’s future priorities on Monday at the closing session of the Assembly’s three-day gathering in The Hague.
Tensions with Russia will feature strongly throughout the meeting, which will include a minute of silence in memory the 298 people who lost their lives when Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 was shot down over Ukraine in July. Bayley said that tragedy underscored the dangers posed by the Ukraine crisis.
“The shooting down of this aircraft was an unspeakable, criminal act of war,” Bayley said. “It illustrates very clearly the security challenges which are posed to us elsewhere in Europe by Russia’s new foreign policy and the dangers to our citizens when security policy breaks down.”
Over 350 national parliament delegates from the 28 NATO Allies and over 20 other nations will attend the session – including lawmakers from the Ukrainian, Iraqi and Afghan parliaments.
Much of the debate will follow on from the NATO summit held in Wales in September. Aside from tensions with Russia, the Assembly will discuss the situation in the Middle East and the threat posed by the advance of ISIS in Syria and Iraq; Afghanistan’s transition after the winding down of the NATO-led international security force this year; and the engagement by Allied nations in Wales to bring defence spending up to the two percent target set by NATO headquarters.
Asked whether Ukraine could one-day become a NATO member, Bayley said the decision would lie primarily with the people and government of Ukraine.
“NATO has never gone out to recruit new countries, but we say that the door remains open to European countries who first of all meet our standards,” Bayley said. Those standards include democratic oversight of the military, commitment to democratic values and rule of law, and contributing to the security of the alliance, he added.
The session in The Hague will be the British legislator’s last as NATO PA president as his two-year term comes to an end. The Assembly will elect Bayley’s replacement on Monday.