The idea to engage parliamentarians in transatlantic issues 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 foundation for cooperation between NATO and the NATO PA was strengthened in December 1967 when the North Atlantic Council (NAC) authorised the NATO Secretary General to study how to achieve closer cooperation between the two bodies. As a result of these deliberations, the NATO Secretary General, after consultation with the NAC, implemented several measures to enhance the working relationship between NATO and the Assembly. These measures included the Secretary General providing a response to all Assembly recommendations and resolutions adopted in its Plenary Sessions.
Promoting parliamentary democracy in Central and Eastern Europe
In response to the fall of the Berlin Wall in the 1980s, the NATO-PA broadened its mandate by developing close relations with political leaders in Central and East European countries. Those ties, in turn, greatly facilitated the dialogue that NATO itself embarked upon with the region's governments.
The Rose-Roth programme of cooperation with the parliaments of Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) was initiated in 1990 by the then President of the Assembly, Congressman Charlie Rose, and Senator Bill Roth. The aim of the Rose-Roth Initiative was, initially, to strengthen the development of parliamentary democracy in CEE countries.
Towards deeper relations with Russia and Ukraine
At the end of the Cold War, the NATO PA made contacts with Russia and Ukraine. Its relations with these two countries were given a new impetus in 1997. The Founding Act on Mutual Relations, Cooperation and Security between the Russian Federation and NATO, signed in May 1997, and the NATO-Ukraine Charter signed in July 1997, explicitly charged the Assembly with expanding its dialogue and cooperation with both the Russian Federal Assembly and the Ukrainian Rada.
Mirroring the creation in May 2002 of the NATO-Russia Council, a major step forward in NATO's cooperation with Russia, the Assembly created the NATO-Russia parliamentary Committee to allow discussions “at 27”. This committee, which meets twice a year during sessions, has become the main framework for direct NATO-Russia parliamentary relations.
In 2002, the Assembly also decided to upgrade its special relationship with Ukraine by creating the Ukraine-NATO Interparliamentary Council. The Assembly's cooperation with the Verkhovna Rada was progressively strengthened in the run-up to the Ukrainian Presidential elections in 2004. Members of the NATO-PA were involved in election monitoring, supporting the international community's effort.
Increasing cooperation with partners in the Middle East and North Africa
The increasing attention to security in the Mediterranean region in the 1990s culminated in 1996 with the creation of the Assembly's Mediterranean Special Group (GSM). It is a forum for cooperation and discussion with the parliaments in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region focussed on political, economic, social and security issues.
In 2004-2005, the Assembly decided to bolster its relations with parliaments in this region. At the Venice session, the Standing Committee created the new status of Mediterranean Associate Members, opening the door for increased cooperation with MENA parliaments.