Yesterday, the 2023 Spring Session of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly (NATO PA) kicked off with an extraordinary meeting of the Standing Committee – the Assembly’s governing body –– and the Ukraine-NATO Interparliamentary Council (UNIC) – the Assembly’s bilateral group for relations with the Verkhovna Rada. Fifty members of parliament from NATO member states and Sweden and ten Ukrainian colleagues discussed increasing support for Ukraine as well as expectations for the NATO Summit in Vilnius in July.
"We are gathered here in Luxembourg at an important time, as Ukraine's resistance grows ever stronger. Our session provides an opportunity to send a clear message of support to Ukraine," opened NATO PA President Joëlle Garriaud Maylam (France).
"Our support, like your fight for freedom, will be unwavering. Our efforts will be relentless, and we will continue to stand by Ukraine, united and determined, for as long as it takes for you to prevail," she added.
“It is very important to align as many members as possible on stepping up our efforts in supporting Ukraine at all levels – political, militarily, humanitarian, financial and legal,” underlined Audronius Azubalis (Lithuania), UNIC Co-Chairperson. In particular, he urged the Allies to accelerate the deliveries of military capabilities needed for Ukraine to liberate its territory within the internationally recognised borders, including long-range artillery, tanks and, eventually, fighter jets.
Oleksandr Korniyenko, UNIC Co-Chairperson and first deputy chairman of the Ukrainian Verkhovna Rada, stressed that the situation on the battlefield was difficult and dynamic. Ukraine was determined to continue the fight for their freedom.
“We have a common goal – the victory of Ukraine in the war with Russia. We need you for this victory,” he stressed. “We need financial aid, more weapons, more ammunition, more sanctions against Russia. After the victory, we count on the joint reconstruction of Ukraine. Now, Ukraine is fighting not only for its own territory, but also for the whole of Europe and the way this war ends will determine not only the future of our country.”
"The pressure we apply on Moscow must continue to grow," stressed President Garriaud-Maylam. "This pressure also means making sure the heinous crimes Russia has committed and continues to commit in Ukraine – war crimes, crimes against humanity and possibly even acts of genocide – do not go unpunished.”
“We urge every state to consider joining a Special Tribunal for the crime of aggression against Ukraine to bring Russian military and political leadership to account. It will fill the jurisdictional gap of the International Criminal Court,” said Mr Korniyenko called. The Assembly first supported the establishment of a special tribunal a year ago at its 2022 Spring Session in Vilnius.
“We need more sanctions and must enforce them fully,” added Mr Azubalis. “This Assembly, like many national parliaments, has already declared that the Russian Federation, under the current regime is a terrorist state, which, in my view, is committing acts of genocide in Ukraine. We must also further isolate Russia at the United Nations and in other international organisations. And we must hold the Belarusian dictatorship and others accountable for their support of Russia’s brutal war.”
UNIC and Standing Committee members also discussed the upcoming Summit of NATO Heads of State and Government scheduled to take place in Vilnius on 11-12 July.
President Garriaud-Maylam stressed that the Summit should affirm, "in no uncertain terms, that Ukraine belongs to our European and Euro-Atlantic family, that it will become a member of NATO and that we will be at its side as it advances on the clearly defined path to membership." Already in 2022, the Assembly has recommended that Allies should agree on the next steps towards Ukraine’s membership.
“The upcoming Vilnius summit is a unique opportunity for Allied countries to send a concrete signal of Ukraine joining NATO. It is essential that decisions on Ukrainian membership in NATO should be taken by NATO leaders in Vilnius,” said Yehor Cherniev, head of the Ukrainian delegation to the NATO PA. “It is necessary to finally make a decision that is long overdue: to define specific plans and prospects for Ukraine's accession to NATO. I therefore call on you to take the message to your capitals for the NATO leaders meeting in Vilnius. It is obvious that the best guarantee for future security in Ukraine as well as in the Euro-Atlantic space is NATO membership for Ukraine.”
“Ukrainians are dying on the battlefield every day,” said Mr Azubalis. “They not only defend their ancestral land and right to exist but also democracy, Euro-Atlantic security and our rules-based order. Ukraine shares NATO’s values and it would be able to contribute greatly to our shared security.”
Mr Azubalis called for Allies to “show political courage and vision and convey a clear political message to Ukraine and to Moscow that the case is closed: Ukraine will become a member of NATO.” UNIC and Standing Committee members discussed a range of options for conveying a strong message on the political track of Ukraine’s Euro-Atlantic integration. Mr Azubalis’ view was that the issue of extending an invitation to Ukraine at the Vilnius Summit should be put on the table to help achieve a strong outcome.
Participants also discussed additional practical steps to upgrade NATO-Ukraine relations. Mr Azubalis urged, for example, that Ukraine be granted enhanced access to NATO political and military bodies. He also called on fellow parliamentarians to fully exploit the UNIC format.
President Garriaud-Maylam also praised Ukraine’s reform efforts. "I applaud Ukraine's determination to be exemplary and to continue the necessary reforms despite the war. This work is necessary, and we will continue to assist you in these efforts.". In 2022, the Assembly has created a special fund to support Ukraine’s democratic institutions.
Standing with Ukraine as it continues to face Russia's unjustified, unprovoked and brutal war of aggression is in the spotlight throughout the Session. On Monday, the Plenary Sitting is expected to adopt a special declaration, drafted by NATO PA Vice-President Michal Szczerba (Poland), with recommendations to NATO governments and parliament on increasing support for Ukraine. Ukraine’s Minister of Defence Oleksii Reznikov will address the Sitting, and Oleksandra Matviichuk, Director of the Ukrainian Center for Civil Liberties, which won the 2022 Nobel Peace Prize, will also engage with NATO PA members over the weekend.