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Volume 49 Number 17, October 12, 2019 ARCHIVE HOME JBCENTRE SUBSCRIBE

NATO Parliamentary Assembly Meets in London:

Trying to Find a Role while Liberal Democracy Is in Crisis

The NATO Parliamentary Assembly is meeting in London from October 11-14[1]. This meeting takes place in the 70th anniversary year of NATO, which will also be marked in London in December.

As the Westminster Parliamentary website explains: "The United Kingdom has 18 seats in the Assembly, which are filled by a cross-party delegation from both Houses of Parliament appointed by the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs. The distribution of places to political parties reflects the composition of the House of Commons.

"The UK delegation represents the UK Parliament, not the Government, and plays an active role in the activities of the Assembly, through membership of its Committees and groups and participation in plenary meetings.

"The delegation attends the two plenary sessions of the Assembly each year, which take place in the autumn (the Annual Session) and the spring. At the plenary sessions, the Assembly's Committees debate and agree reports on various subjects and meet government officials and policy experts to inform their work.

"The plenary meetings allow Members to debate topical security issues, hear from and ask questions of national and international leaders, including the Secretary-General of NATO, and agree policy recommendations. The policy recommendations are distributed to governments of member states and receive a written response from NATO's Secretary-General.

"In between the Assembly's plenary sessions, the Committees meet to discuss their reports and be briefed by officials and experts in their areas of competence."

The present president of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly is Labour MP for Bridgend, Madeleine Moon. She was elected to the post at last year's meeting in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.

The website of the Parliamentary Assembly describes its origin as follows:

"The idea to engage Alliance Parliamentarians in collective deliberations on the problems confronting the transatlantic partnership first emerged in the early 1950s and took shape with the creation of an annual conference of NATO parliamentarians in 1955. The Assembly's creation reflected a desire on the part of legislators to give substance to the premise of the Washington Treaty that NATO was the practical expression of a fundamentally political transatlantic Alliance of democracies.

"The first 'Conference of Members of Parliament from the NATO Countries' was held at NATO Headquarters at the Palais de Chaillot in Paris on 18-22 July 1955, bringing together 158 parliamentarians from 14 NATO nations. The conference elected Senator Wishart McL Robertson of Canada as its President, and agreed to establish a Continuing Committee - the precursor of the Standing Committee - consisting of the elected officers of the Assembly (the President and its three vice-Presidents) and one representative from each delegation. It also decided to appoint a small, part-time secretariat, initially based in London until it moved to Paris in 1960.

"Committees were established during the second conference in 1956. In 1958, the number of Committees was set to five - Economic, Cultural Affairs and Information, Military, Political, and Scientific and Technical. Although committee titles and terms of reference have evolved over the years, this basic structure remains today.

"In 1966, the 12th Conference unanimously agreed to rename the organisation as the North Atlantic Assembly (NAA). Following France's withdrawal from NATO's military structure in 1966, NATO moved its headquarters from Paris to Brussels. The Assembly headquarters moved to Brussels in 1968.

"The foundation for co-operation between NATO and the NAA was strengthened in December 1967 when the North Atlantic Council (NAC) authorised the NATO Secretary General to study ways to enhance co-operation between the two bodies. As a result of these deliberations over the following year, several measures were put in place to strengthen the working relationship between NATO and the Assembly. These included in particular regular addresses by the NATO Secretary General to the Assembly, and written responses by the Secretary General to the recommendations and resolutions adopted by the Assembly in its Plenary Sessions. In 1974, the leaders of Allied governments, in their Declaration on Atlantic Relations, recognised that "the cohesion of the Alliance has found expression not only in co-operation among their governments, but also in the free exchange of views among the elected representatives of the peoples of the Alliance." This declaration essentially endorsed the work of the Assembly without mentioning it directly.

"In 1979, the Assembly decided to begin holding two plenary sessions each year. With the introduction of a spring session, the pattern of Assembly activities was set to remain largely unchanged until the end of the Cold War."

After the collapse of the Soviet Union and the bipolar division of the world, the NAA worked to integrate the countries of Central and Eastern Europe into its structures, with a view to establishing in those countries the cartel party system, the market economy and the conception of rights based on private property. The NAA became actively involved in championing NATO enlargement, and its name change to the NATO Parliamentary Assembly in 1999 was meant to signify the high point of that transformation.

It is interesting that this year's annual meeting is taking place at the Queen Elizabeth Centre in Parliament Square when the British Parliament is in such disarray and XR and others are demonstrating their lack of confidence in the existing political institutions which in reality do not favour their interests.

In concrete terms, there is no unanimity on the Parliamentary Assembly's role, reflecting the serious divisions in NATO itself. Any sense of urgency is directed towards Russia, and to some extent China. But even here deep divisions exist among the countries that the delegates represent. Even the identity of Europe is called into question, since such divisions exist within even the European ranks, particularly over the military rise of Germany. Britain itself, of course, is veering towards implementing US policy, though Madeleine Moon herself was one of the Labour MPs that voted against implementing Article 50.

In addition, of concern to the participating delegations is what is referred to as "hybrid warfare" in relation to the so-called "Russian threat". This relates to the disinformation and fear-mongering about alleged foreign interference in elections, as though otherwise elections are free and fair.

In the face of the demands of the people for peace, freedom and democracy, including safeguarding the future against the despoliation from the oligarchies which maraud throughout the world, the NATO Parliamentary Assembly attempts to give respectability to the warmongering of the NATO alliance. Nevertheless the crisis of its values are such that it cannot provide any justifications for a united front around its warmongering.

For Your Information

[1] The NATO Parliamentary Assembly has 266 delegates from parliaments of the 29 NATO member states. It defines itself as follows:

"The Assembly's principal objective is to facilitate mutual understanding between parliamentarians from NATO countries and promote debate on key security challenges."

In addition, the Assembly defines its aims as:

"to provide NATO and its member governments with an indication of collective parliamentary opinion;

"to provide greater transparency of NATO policies, and thereby a degree of collective accountability;

"to strengthen the transatlantic relationship;

"to assist in the development of parliamentary democracy throughout the Euro-Atlantic area by integrating parliamentarians from non-member nations into the Assembly's work;

"to assist directly those parliaments actively seeking Alliance membership;

"to increase co-operation with countries which seek co-operation rather than membership, including those of the Caucasus and the Mediterranean regions; and

"to assist in the development of parliamentary mechanisms, practices and 'know how' essential for the effective democratic control of armed forces."


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