In Tallinn, Assembly leadership addresses Alliance transformation & Ukraine support ahead of NATO’s 75th anniversary

24 March 2024

“We must transform NATO for the next generations – stronger than ever,” said NATO PA President Michal Szczerba (Poland) in his remarks to the NATO Parliamentary Assembly’s (NATO PA) Standing Committee, as it met on 23 and 24 March in Tallinn. “We need to ensure that NATO continues to deliver. That it remains the cornerstone and indispensable guarantor of our security.”

“NATO is and must be an Alliance of democracies, […] determined to defend every inch of Allied territory, at 360°, […] committed to standing with Ukraine until victory,” President Szczerba stressed when addressing NATO’s future. “It must remain an Alliance which fairly shares the benefits, burdens and responsibilities for our security.”

As reports emerged that a Russian missile, aimed at Ukraine, had violated Polish and Allied airspace in the early hours of Sunday, President Szczerba called the incident “deeply concerning.” 

“Russia is testing the limits every day. Polish and Allied forces stand vigilant, protecting Allied territory. We unequivocally denounce Russia's aggressive and destabilising actions. This highlights the danger Russia's war against Ukraine poses for us as well.”

“In a more dangerous world, North America and Europe must stand strong and united in NATO,” stressed Lauri Hussar, President of the Estonian Parliament in his welcome remarks. “Our unity is more important than ever, as we face the biggest security crisis since World War II, caused by Russia’s war of aggression in Ukraine.”

The annual spring meeting of the Assembly’s governing body brought together over 40 lawmakers from the 32-nation Alliance. It was hosted by Raimond Kaljulaid and the parliamentary delegation of Estonia. At the meeting, delegates welcomed NATO’s newest ally, Sweden, for this first meeting which Swedish parliamentarians attended as full members.

In her speech to the Standing Committee, Prime Minister Kaja Kallas emphasised that NATO’s door must remain open because it makes the Alliance stronger.  “Next week Estonia is celebrating 20 years in NATO. NATO has made Estonia stronger – no doubt about that – but also our membership has reinforced the Alliance, demonstrating how shared values can enhance collective security not only in Europe but also in Afghanistan, Libya, Iraq, and Horn of Africa. 

According to the Prime Minister, the best way to show that Allies value their security is to invest in it. “Russia’s threat remains not only to the Nordic-Baltic region but to Europe and transatlantic area in general. Therefore, we need to continue to emphasise the importance of defence and the best way to do it, is to invest into defence. Not only 2% of our economy but at least 2.5%. Estonia is now investing over 3% in defence.”

Just days away from NATO’s 75th anniversary, members adopted a statement on the occasion: “For 75 years, NATO has succeeded throughout all shifts in the security environment because it is defined not by what it stands against but by what it stands for – the defence of democracy, individual liberty and the rule of law.”

Allied lawmakers also prepared their initial recommendations on how Allied Heads of State and Government should strengthen collective defence and deterrence, transform NATO and maintain full support for Ukraine’s victory when they meet for their 2024 Summit in Washington, D.C. on 9-11 July. The Assembly’s final recommendations for the Washington NATO Summit will be agreed during its Spring Session in Sofia, Bulgaria at the end of May.

The members heard, via video, from Ruslan Stefanchuk, Chairman of the Verkhovna Rada, on the latest developments in Ukraine. 

"We should adjust our policy to new realities given the security context and the constant threat coming from Russia which will not give up on grabbing part of the European continent while weakening and dividing the Allies as much as possible,” said Chairman Stefanchuk.

“The vision is simple. It is Ukraine’s victory. This must be our strategic goal,” stressed President Szczerba when addressing support to Ukraine. “We must stand with Ukraine until victory and beyond […] And we must say very clearly: we want Ukraine in NATO as soon as possible.”

“Fear and fatigue are weaknesses we cannot afford. Because Putin will not stop in Ukraine”, President Szczerba added. 

NATO PA members also engaged with Yehor Cherniev, Head of the Ukrainian Delegation to the NATO PA, on how to best support Ukraine’s fight for freedom and survival.

“Thanks to your support, Ukraine still remains independent and continues its heroic struggle,” Mr Cherniev stressed.

“We must act more decisively and quickly, demonstrate determination and readiness for any development of events,” he urged the Allied lawmakers. “The time for hesitation is over. The moment of truth is coming. We will either lose together or win together. And we must win.”

As part of a comprehensive reform of the Assembly’s partnerships adopted in Tallinn, the Standing Committee agreed to create a new status in the NATO PA for those nations aspiring to join the Alliance and to officially designate Ukraine as well as Bosnia and Herzegovina and Georgia, as NATO Candidates.

In two other important decisions, the Standing Committee decided to upgrade the Assembly of Kosovo from parliamentary observer to associate member as well as to grant the parliament of Malta associate membership.

Moreover, they also initiated steps to enhance dialogue and cooperation with the Alliance’s Southern neighbourhood and the Indo-Pacific region.

These partnership changes must be ratified by the full Assembly at the 2024 Spring Session in Sofia, Bulgaria at the end of May.

The Assembly leaders also reviewed the Assembly’s consideration of gender in 2023 as well as statutory matters. 

The NATO PA serves as the consultative interparliamentary organisation for the North Atlantic Alliance. It is institutionally separate and independent from NATO. The Standing Committee is the Assembly’s governing body, composed of the Head of each member delegation, the President, the Vice-Presidents, the Treasurer and the Chairpersons of the Assembly's Committees and of the Mediterranean and Middle East Special Group

Photos © Erik Peinar, courtesy of the Riigikogu
Prime Minister kaja Kallas's address

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