6 October 2005 - INTRODUCTORY REMARKS by SIMON LUNN (SECRETARY GENERAL OF THE NATO PA)
61st ROSE-ROTH SEMINAR, YEREVAN, Armenia. On behalf of the NATO PA, I should like to welcome and thank Arthur Baghdasaryan, speaker of the Armenian Parliament, Vardan Oskanian, Minister of Foreign Affairs, and Mher Shahgeldyan, leader of the Armenian delegation to the NATO PA for the invitation to host this seminar, for the excellent organization by the parliament and its staff, and for the outstanding hospitality I know we are going to enjoy during our stay here.
I would also like to convey the best wishes of Pierre Lellouche, President of the NATO PA who is unable to be with us due to longstanding commitments elsewhere. Pierre is very supportive of, and committed to the work of the Assembly in this region. He is, I know, looking forward to making his own visit here next year.
Our presence in Yerevan reflects the importance that members of the Assembly attach to this country and to the South Caucasus. This is the third seminar in the region following those in Georgia in 2002 and Azerbaijan in 2004. Our committees are regular visitors here - particularly our Committee on the Civil Dimension of Security which has the region as its specific area of focus - and we are very pleased that delegations from all three parliaments of the South Caucasus participate actively in the full range of our activities.
This seminar also reflects the increasing participation of the Armenian Parliament in our work, participation which for a certain period was somewhat muted compared with its two neighbours. However, under the leadership of the head of delegation Mr Shahgeldyan and the support of the Speaker, the Armenian delegation has now achieved a more prominent profile within our Assembly. In this respect we are looking forward to welcoming in November a delegation of members and staff of the Armenian parliament who will participate in one of the NATO orientation courses that we organize on a regular basis in Brussels.
Furthermore in a meeting with the Speaker on Wednesday I was very pleased to be able to discuss further co-operative projects between the Armenian Parliament and the NATO PA. So we are certainly moving in the right direction in terms of co-operation between our two bodies.
Let me now locate this Seminar in the broader context of the Assembly's work.
As an inter-parliamentary body the primary purpose of the Assembly is to facilitate Parliamentary dialogue, to bring members of Parliament together on a regular basis in order to encourage greater legislative awareness and understanding of key security challenges.
During the 1990's, and during the course of two rounds of NATO enlargement, the Assembly was able to play a constructive role in helping aspiring countries and their parliaments prepare for NATO membership.
These Seminars, created in 1991 on the initiative of two American legislators - Congressman Rose and SeNATOr Roth - were specifically designed to assist that process by focusing on the particular needs of new Parliaments in terms of developing democratic " know-how" and in assisting them develop the means to exercise effective democratic oversight over their armed forces and defense establishments.
These seminars also provided an early, and much sought after, indication of NATO interest and support as well as allowing Alliance members and parliamentarians themselves to see at first hand the scale of the problems facing countries in transition.
In view of the parallels sometimes drawn between the situation here and that of the Baltic States in those early years of change it is interesting to note that the first three Rose Roth seminars in 1991 and 1992 were in Vilnius, Riga and Tallin. And of course the three Baltic States have been, and continue to be, very active in offering support and assistance to the region.
I should also note that funding - that all important and too often forgotten element of these activities - for the Assembly's outreach programme was provided for the first ten years by the United States Agency for International Development, stimulated it has to be said by the United States Congress. The programme is now supported by contributions from the Geneva-based Institute for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces (DCAF) who are represented here today and from the Norwegian government grace of the recent Foreign Minister Jan Petersen, who was an active member of the NATO PA.
We have now moved on from that initial era of change and transformation. NATO enlargement has brought new members, new perspectives and new challenges as regions of instability are suddenly closer to our borders. The focus of NATO's attention has expanded accordingly and now embraces regions such as the Balkans, the South Caucasus, Afghanistan and Central Asia and what has become known as the broader Middle-East which encompass's the Mediterranean dialogue and the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative (ICI). This enlargement of NATO's programme of cooperation and partnership carries with it the need for parallel Assembly action at the parliamentary level. And so our attention is likewise now focused on new partners, many of whom are situated in regions of instability.
The requirements of our new partners are, in many cases, different from the beneficiaries of the initial programme of co-operation:
Some are seeking NATO membership and that strategic goal provides important leverage in terms of implementing difficult but necessary reforms;
However while the approaches and requirements of our new partners are diverse, what the Assembly itself has to offer remains very much the same. Participation in Assembly activities brings with it the by - now familiar benefits of: international exposure and experience; the confirmation of NATO interest and support; the opportunity to clarify what NATO " is" and what "it is not" and what it can offer; and, of course, the provision of practical assistance in developing more effective parliamentary structures, particularly in the realm of defense and security.
These are all now well understood elements of Assembly partnership activities. However, there is a further dimension to these activities and meetings that has assumed a greater significance as we increasingly deal with regions where particularly acute political and other sensitivities are involved, and which is relevant to this seminar.
In regions where political differences run deep and where conflicts are based on seemingly irreconcilable national, religious, or ethnic differences, the Assembly can provide a "neutral" forum for free and frank exchanges, unconstrained by the diplomatic strait jacket that so often limits more formal government to government discussions.
Of course, it is governments who must engage in the difficult and laborious business of negotiation. But parliaments and parliamentary meetings such as this have an important role to play in identifying and discussing all possible options, in voicing fears and suspicions, in resolving misperceptions, and in building the necessary contacts and relationships. In short they help prepare the public and parliamentary support that is essential for eventual reconciliation and agreement.
The greatest need in conflicts where animosity is deep-rooted is dialogue and the building of mutual trust and confidence. We know from our own historical experience, and from more recent situations as in the Balkans, that this does not come easily. It takes time, patience and perseverance, and the willingness to absorb seemingly endless setbacks and disappointments. So we can have no illusions that such meetings have an immediate impact on negotiations. But we can hope that they contribute in the long run to the development of the trust and confidence among the parties necessary if a lasting and durable settlement is to be found.
This then is an area where the Assembly as a gathering of parliamentarians is ideally suited to play a constructive role by facilitating the dialogue and the contacts that may, over time, bring about reconciliation and agreement. It is also an area where parliamentary activities parallel and reinforce those of governments.
This is what we hope to be doing over the next two and a half days, encouraging free and frank discussion of the range of challenges that confront the region.
The agenda we have developed in cooperation with the Armenian parliament will allow us to see where progress has been made in the South Caucasus and where there is room for optimism: for example, Georgia's Rose revolution and ongoing efforts at reform; the forthcoming elections in Azerbaijan; and the constitutional reforms here; but also, and most significantly, the efforts at regional cooperation which have been greatly assisted by the international community but are increasingly driven from within. Here I would like to pay tribute to Denis Sammut and the Links organization for their role in organizing inter-parliamentary co-operation in the region.
All of these elements - and there are others - could, if things go well, give cause for hope. But it is a big "if". And there is still the other side of the ledger, about which there is much less room for optimism: most notably and obviously the hindrance of urgently needed political and economic progress in the region by the unresolved conflicts and border issues, South Ossetia, Abkhazia, and of course, Nagorno Karabakh, which we will be discussing this afternoon. I do not intend to say more on these specific issues as we have assembled a group of speakers far more qualified than myself.
We will also, naturally, be focusing on this country and its current and future prospects and perspectives.
In this respect, one issue of particular relevance will be the progress made in reforming the defence sector, or the security sector as it is now more appropriately called. Re-organising and reshaping armed forces and ensuring that they are fully accountable to democratically elected authorities, including parliament, is a challenge that faces all partner countries. It is an issue that has profound political and economic, as well as military, ramifications. All partner countries have suffered from the same legacy of the past, in terms of the structure, size, equipment of their forces and above all of attitude and mentality. However, each of them has their own specific characteristics and requirements imposed, among other things, by their strategic location - and this country is no exception. So we will be looking forward to Sir Garry Johnson's presentation on the situation here.
This is an area where the Assembly itself has been very active. Most recently we have developed with the International Staff at NATO a new initiative in the context of Defence Institution Building which brought together - in the case of Georgia - representatives of the various constituencies involved in defence - the civil servants, the military and the legislators- to encourage the sort of cooperation that is required if reform is to be done effectively.
During the course of this seminar, we will be hearing from a variety of speakers on these and other topics. I am very pleased to welcome a number of old friends and observers who have been with us in previous seminars.
And I am particularly pleased to welcome as our guest speaker Sir Brian Fall, with whom I had the pleasure to work at NATO many years ago, in the Gorbachev era, when Sir Brian was the right hand man or "chef du Cabinet" to the then NATO Secretary General, Lord Carrington. He is now the United Kingdom's Special Representative to the South Caucasus and we look forward to his insights into the problems and prospects for the region.
In conclusion, we hope this seminar will make a constructive contribution to progress in the region. To that end I encourage the participation of all attendees. Many of you are involved in some way with this region and we look forward to having your insights. For us a successful conference is very simply defined as one where we all leave better informed than when we arrived. In that spirit I look forward to a constructive and a stimulating two and a half days.