NATO PA gathers online for largest annual meeting: COVID-19, NATO 2030, China top the agenda

16 November 2020

Security concerns exposed by the coronavirus pandemic, the future of NATO, and China’s impact on the balance of world power top the agenda as legislators from Alliance member nations and partners meet online this week for the NATO Parliamentary Assembly’s 66th Annual Session.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, Greek government ministers, senior officials, and defence and security experts will join scores of lawmakers during the talks from 18 to 23 November which the virus’ global surge forced into cyberspace. The Session was originally planned to take place in Athens, Greece.

“Over the six days of our meeting, we will review our responses to COVID-19 and the important role our armed forces have played in this crisis,” said Attila Mesterhazy, the Assembly’s President. “We will also discuss the many security challenges which continue to affect our security, and we will help shape a vision for NATO’s future.”

Russia’s military assertiveness, security in the Black Sea, Balkans, and Gulf regions, defence innovation, hypersonic weapons, urban warfare, and energy security are also up for debate at the NATO’s PA’s 66th Annual Session, which concludes a year of mostly online consultations among allied legislators.

Much discussion will focus on the pandemic, including the importance of military assistance and maintaining defence spending levels even as the virus ravages national economies. In response to its spread, NATO Allies are delivering vital medical equipment, coordinating flights, and countering disinformation.

NATO PA Committees will debate a series of reports weighing the impact of the disease, while a draft resolution expected to be adopted at the plenary session will warn Allies to draw lessons, analyse shortcomings, and prepare for future pandemics.

The Assembly will adopt its recommendations for Stoltenberg’s NATO 2030 agenda in a separate resolution presented by Mesterhazy. The draft appeals to Allies to reaffirm their commitment to trans-Atlantic values and address any divisive issues. It urges them to recommit to spending at least 2% of their GDP on defence and to assess the direct challenges which China’s global ambitions and China-Russia cooperation pose to NATO.

The impact of China’s rise will be a key focus for participants logging in from across the Alliance, as Allies become increasingly concerned about the Asian giant’s rapidly developing military arsenal, its growing role in cyber-attacks, disinformation campaigns, and even its actions in space.

Drawn up by US Congressman Gerald E. Connolly, a draft resolution recommends adapting NATO’s priority-setting Strategic Concept to address China concerns.

“China can no longer be ignored if NATO is going to remain an unsurpassed political, economic, technological, and military bloc capable of protecting the values of liberal democracy,” says a draft report Connolly prepared for the session.

Other critical topics on the transatlantic security agenda feature throughout the meetings, including how to strengthen NATO partnerships, in particular with the European Union, to fully implement the Women, Peace and Security agenda, and enhance communications about NATO.

The NATO PA Session assembles members of national parliaments from the 30 Allies as well as partner countries, observers, and international organisations. The Assembly is an essential forum for exchanging views on security issues between the Alliance and member parliaments, making it an important link to citizens in the Euro-Atlantic area.

Information about the Annual Session are available here.

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