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The NATO PA is made up of 266 delegates from the 29 NATO member countries. Each delegation is based on the country's size and reflects the political composition of the parliament, therefore representing a broad spectrum of political opinion. Delegates are nominated by their parliaments according to their national procedures.
In addition to NATO country delegates, delegates from 12 associate countries, 4 Mediterranean associate countries, as well as 8 parliamentary observer delegations take part in its activities, bringing the total number of delegates to approximately 360.
Associate members are able to participate in almost all Committee and Sub-Committee activities, all Rose-Roth seminars, and Plenary Sessions. At Plenary Sessions, associate members can present resolutions and amendments to resolutions. They can also serve as Special Associate Rapporteurs on Committees to present their perspectives in NATO-PA reports. They are not, however, eligible to vote on reports, resolutions or Assembly leadership, nor do they contribute to the Assembly’s budget.
Inter-parliamentary assemblies such as the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly (OSCE PA) and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) also send delegations.
The European Parliament is entitled to send ten delegates to Assembly Sessions and can participate in most Committee and Sub-Committee activities.
Other parliamentary delegations are invited on an ad hoc basis for certain meetings and activities; in the past, these have included in particular delegations from Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Mediterranean. Cyprus and Malta, as well as a number of parliaments from North Africa and the Middle East, are also invited to seminars of the Mediterranean and Middle East Special Group.
More information on the status of each category can be found in the Assembly Rules of Procedure.
The Assembly’s governing body is the Standing Committee, which is composed of the Head of each member delegation, the President, the Vice-Presidents, the Treasurer and the Secretary General.
The voting members on this committee are the heads of the member delegations, each with one vote. The Assembly’s President, five Vice-Presidents and the Treasurer only vote if they also serve as the head of their delegation.
The Chairmen of the Assembly’s five committees and the Chairman of the Mediterranean Special Group are ex-officio members of the Standing Committee. Each delegation can also appoint one non-voting alternate member.
The Standing Committee performs a wide range of both political and administrative tasks. For instance, it determines the rights and obligations of non-member delegations and evaluates applications for non-member status which, if approved, are forwarded for the consideration of the full Assembly. It also co-ordinates the overall work of the Assembly: it must approve all planned meetings and provides guidance to the committees on the treatment of subjects to avoid duplication and ensure that the overall work of the Assembly is co-ordinated. The Standing Committee also serves as the Assembly’s finance committee.
The International Secretariat under its Secretary General, is responsible for all administration and the bulk of research and analysis that supports the Assembly’s Committees, Sub-Committees and other groups.
The five Committees are: Civil Dimension of Security; Defence and Security; Economics and Security; Political; Science and Technology. They are divided in divided in eight Sub‑Committees and charged with examining all security and policy challenges confronting Allied countries
Other Assembly bodies include the Mediterranean and Middle East Special Group to enhance parliamentary dialogue and understanding with countries of the Middle East and the North African region, the Ukraine-NATO Inter-parliamentary Council and the Georgia-NATO Inter-parliamentary Council. The NATO-Russia Parliamentary Committee was discontinued in April 2014 following Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine and decision to annex the Ukrainian province of Crimea in March 2014.
Two sessions are held each year - in the Spring and Autumn (‘Annual’) - in different countries.
In order to fulfil its core mission, the Assembly holds some 40 activities every year, which bring together between 10 and 350 members of parliament in various formats. These meetings provide a unique specialised forum for dialogue and frank debate among the parliamentary delegates on security issues.
Most of the Assembly's substantive work is carried out by its five Committees. The Committees and Sub-Committees produce Reports on critical issues affecting the Alliance.
All the Committees meet during the Spring and Autumn Assembly Sessions to discuss and adopt Committee Reports and Policy Recommendations.
In order to inform their deliberations on these documents, the Committees receive briefings from senior government officials, leaders of international organisations and other experts. They also organise fact-finding visits to NATO member or partner countries.
The reports are discussed in draft form at the Assembly’s Spring Session. The reports are then revised and updated for discussion, amendment and adoption at the Assembly’s Annual Session in the Autumn.
At the Annual Session, the Committees also produce policy recommendations - which are voted on by the full Assembly. These Policy Recommendations are not binding, but are widely distributed to governments and parliaments of member and associate member nations.
NATO's Secretary General provides a written reaction to each of the Policy Recommendations.
The Committee and Sub-Committee Reports and Policy Recommendations are prepared by a Member of Parliament, appointed by his peers to serve as Rapporteur on a specific topic of interest for the Committee.
The Plenary Sitting during Sessions is usually addressed by the Assembly's President, a senior representative of the government of the host nation, and NATO's Secretary General.
At the Annual Plenary Sitting, elections take place for Assembly officers. The President and five Vice-Presidents are elected for one-year terms and can be re-elected once. The Treasurer is elected for a two-year term and can be re-elected twice.
Besides these Committee activities, the Assembly has an extensive programme of outreach (cooperation and partnerships) with non-member parliaments which complements NATO's own partnership activities through parliamentary dialogue and capacity building.
A central component of this outreach effort is the Rose-Roth programme of partnership and cooperation - initially with Central and Eastern European countries but subsequently throughout the Euro-Atlantic region. This programme seeks to assist partner countries, mainly in the Balkans and the South Caucasus, through a challenging transition process, which involves the implementation of difficult political and economic reforms.
The Rose-Roth Programme involves a series of seminars focused on regional and topical security issues and training programmes for parliamentary staff and members of Parliament. The aim is to enhance parliamentary awareness, build contacts and provide experience and expertise. Particular attention is paid to promoting the principle of the democratic control of armed forces and to the development of effective parliamentary oversight of defence and the military.
The NATO Orientation Programme is focused primarily on young or newly elected members of parliament from NATO and Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council (EAPC) nations, as well as those newly assigned to security or foreign affairs responsibilities. The programme aims at providing an in-depth overview of the functioning and policies of NATO and SHAPE as well as of the Alliance’s evolving relationships with its many partners. The Programme was launched in 2000 and is held annually in Brussels.
In 2001, growing concern about the apparent drift in transatlantic attitudes, perceptions and policies, prompted the Assembly's Standing Committee to instigate a "Parliamentary Transatlantic Forum" to help identify the precise nature of the divergence in transatlantic thinking and to explore ways in which these differences could be redressed. The programme includes discussions with senior US administration figures and academic experts. The Forum is held annually in Washington, D.C. in cooperation with the National Defense University and the Atlantic Council of the United States.
In the context of its outreach activities, the Assembly created in 1995 a Mediterranean Special Group (now named the Mediterranean and Middle East Special Group) with the aim of opening a political dialogue with legislators from countries of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).
The programme gradually expanded and received new impetus following the Arab uprisings. The Assembly has established relations with the Parliaments of six countries of the southern and eastern Mediterranean.
The yearly activities of the Group include a visit to the region, and two seminars, one of which is held in cooperation with the Italian Parliament. These meetings seek to enhance parliamentary awareness of the problems of the region, promote a political dialogue between parliamentarians, and ultimately provide experience and expertise to legislators from Maghreb and Middle East countries.
NATO PA delegations participate in election monitoring and lead seminars on parliamentary oversight of military and security policy - a vital dimension of democratic governance.
Dedicated bilateral fora allow members of the NATO PA to meet with their counterparts in Ukraine, Georgia and formerly, also Russia.
The Committee reports and policy recommendations are the Assembly's main policy documents, representing members' views on the key issues on the Alliance's agenda. Until these documents have been approved by the Committees at the Annual Session, they represent only the views of the Rapporteur.
The NATO PA International Secretariat prepares written records of the Assembly's meetings - Committee meetings during sessions, Committee and Sub-Committee fact-finding visits, and seminars.
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