16 November 2005 - NATO PARLIAMENTARY ASSEMBLY (NATO-PA)CONCLUDES ANNUAL SESSION [PRESS COMMUNIQUE]
Over 300 parliamentarians from 26 NATO member states, along with several representatives from states with associate or observer status, concluded their annual meeting in the Danish capital Copenhagen yesterday (Tuesday).
Discussions on a range of topics and crisis situations from Belarus, where the Assembly is supporting the democratic opposition, to the emergence of China as a great power, emphasised the wide range of activities the Alliance and its parliamentary arm, the NATO-PA, are now involved with in the post-Cold War world.
Speakers noted that the Alliance was a truly transatlantic forum involving European and North American members and uniquely placed to play an increasingly important political role in global events. This was emphasised by the recent humanitarian roles it had played following hurricane Katrina and the Pakistan earthquake.
The plenary session, held on Tuesday, was addressed by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer who delivered an upbeat assessment of the Alliance's current activities in the Balkans and Afghanistan.
"This is an alliance that is very much in business," he said. A view which was also echoed by Danish Prime Minister, Anders Fogh Rasmussen in his address to the Assembly.
"Full cooperation is essential in this field and there is still much to be done," he declared. "Turkey will pursue and expand its cooperation with the NATO Parliamentary Assembly," he added.
Reporting to the Assembly on his first year in office, current NATO-PA President Pierre Lellouche said the organisation had had a particularly busy year, with particular attention to the "revitalisation of the transatlantic link" which was damaged by disagreements over the war in Iraq.
"Our Assembly has organised, apart from its plenary sessions, Standing Committee meetings, information and Transatlantic Forum seminars, no less than 40 visits by its committees, that is practically one visit per working week," he said.
He added that during the same period it had prepared no less than 15 reports on a very wide variety of subjects, ranging from the economic development of China to the security of the Southern Caucasus to the situation in the Middle East.
"Scarcely two weeks ago I had the opportunity to meet Mr Dennis Hastert, the President of the House of Representatives, in order to raise with him ways of increasing participation by Congressmen in our work, both in our plenary and Standing Committee meetings and in the activities of our committees," he told fellow lawmakers.
Mr Lellouche also drew attention to the NATO-PA's work encouraging democratic values in Azerbaijan, Ukraine and Belarus and the increasing dialogue it was now enjoying with the Mediterranean and Arab-Muslim world. The Assembly expressed concerned over the situation in Mauritania which witnessed a coup d'état only a few months ago.
"It is noteworthy that today we have no less than four Arab parliamentary assemblies associated with our Assembly, alongside the Knesset," he stressed, but added: "The fact remains that we would be wrong to rest on our laurels."
On Belarus - an agreement to support the forces of opposition to the regime of President Alexander Lukashenko regime. Key opposition figures spoke at the session and the Assembly offered to monitor the presidential elections in July 2006
On Georgia - the Assembly said it would be watching with great attention the withdrawal of Russian troops from their bases in Georgia as it concluded that this would greatly contribute to security and stability in the South Caucasus
On Ukraine - the Assembly declared it was a priority for the Alliance to help Ukraine eliminate dangerous surplus weapons and munitions dating from the Cold War
On Azerbaijan - the Assembly stated the parliamentary elections of 6 November (monitored by NATO PA members together with OSCE and CoE) were not up to international democratic standards. Serious abuses were registered, despite some positive signals in the process.
Another issue which was debated vigorously was the internal reform of the Assembly itself. It was agreed to set up a special group which will conduct over the next few months a study on the reform of the Assembly to adapt it to the security challenges of the 21st century.