NATO adaptation, Ukraine, Israel attacks & WPS award top agenda as NATO PA wraps up annual session

09 October 2023

The NATO Parliamentary Assembly concluded four days of intense talks on Monday hailing the biggest ramp up of collective defence in the Euro-Atlantic area in decades and appealing to Allies to continue to boost budgets and arms production as Russia’s illegal war drags on.

The Annual Session, held in Copenhagen and joined by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy via video-link, was marked by a show of unrelenting support for Ukraine. Several resolutions were adopted to encourage NATO and its partners to bolster deterrence and defence and adapt the Alliance for a new strategic era.

During the Plenary Sitting, leaders and legislators united in condemning the ongoing terror attacks on Israel.

They celebrated the awarding of the Women for Peace and Security Award to Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, the leader of democratic forces in Belarus.

Newly appointed NATO PA President Michal Szczerba noted the Alliance’s determination from its Vilnius Summit in July to “ensure that shared values – democracy, freedom, the right of all nations to determine their destiny – prevail over imperialism and autocracy.”

“Allied governments must finally take concrete steps. It is now time to set up a Centre for Democratic Resilience at NATO Headquarters,” Szczerba said. The 75th Anniversary Summit in Washington, DC, would be a good time to “celebrate having a NATO body focused on helping Allies and partners defend our values,” he added.

The Assembly’s proposal to establish this Centre – NATO currently has no unique structure dedicated to democratic resilience – has the support of almost all Allied governments. The concept is a response to the growing threat to democracies both from within and from without. 

NATO Deputy Secretary General Mircea Geoana said that he and Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg “are doing everything we can to enlarge consensus” for the Centre to be set up.

More broadly, Geoana told the parliamentarians and officials that 2023 is set to be the ninth consecutive year that defence spending has risen, with a real term hike this time of 8.3% in Europe and Canada, “the biggest increase in decades.”

“Eleven Allies now spend 2% of GDP on defence; a number that will rise next year,” he said, fielding questions from members. On other aspects of adaptation, he said that governments are ramping up arms production, with over 2.4 billion euros in contracts earmarked for ammunition stocks.

NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander Transformation, General Philippe Lavigne, underlined that the Allies “must define our military future operating environment, identifying the key actors, the evolving battlefield, and the changing nature of warfare.”

He also said that they “need to consider all nations of power and explore how to collaborate more effectively with partners of all kinds, including the European Union.”

Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen insisted that the EU must start doing its fair share on defence. “NATO is the cornerstone of our security,” she said. “It is not a competition. It starts and it ends with NATO. But inside Europe and inside the European Union we have to do more.”

Addressing the Plenary Sitting just after Hamas extremists struck Israel, killing hundreds and taking dozens of people hostage, Frederiksen said: “Nothing can justify such attacks. Nothing. Nothing.” She added: “We stand with Israel’s right to defend itself.”

Szczerba described the attacks as “a new level of massive, terrorist and indiscriminate violence against Israel.”

In receiving the Women for Peace and Security Award, Tsikhanouskaya paid tribute to a 22-year-old Belarusian woman from her hometown who was taken hostage in Israel. “May peace be restored in the Middle East as soon as possible,” she said.

Tsikhanouskaya dedicated her award to the thousands of imprisoned and oppressed women in Iran, her home country and too many more. “Tyranny is like a cancer. If not treated properly, it will spread,” she said, in a speech that was met with a standing ovation.

“We women can bring about change. We have the power to make the world a better place,” she said. In announcing the prize, Szczerba described Tsikhanouskaya as “an outstanding example of courage to men and women alike.”

Tsikhanouskaya joins former Speaker of the US House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi and Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Olha Stefanishyna as the third recipient of this award.

A series of resolutions were also adopted on Monday, containing recommendations for NATO Allies and partners on: delivering on the Vilnius Summit decisions; the reconstruction of Ukraine; NATO’s new deterrence and defence baseline; stability and security in the Black Sea region; countering disinformation; and protecting critical maritime infrastructure.
A uniting theme was the need to relentlessly support Ukraine, almost 600 days into the war.
The Annual Session, which ran from 6 to 9 October, was hosted by Denmark’s Folketing, whose Speaker Søren Gade addressed the Plenary Sitting. Some 240 legislators from the 31-member NATO Alliance and close to twenty partner parliaments took part in debates on issues at the top of the Euro-Atlantic defence and security agenda.  

Several reports were also adopted, on topics ranging from energy dependency and the protection of maritime infrastructure to the challenges posed by China’s global rise and its deepening partnership with Russia.

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