No. 1 - Jan. 1997
Vol. 45 - p. 26

New prospects for
the Atlantic Treaty Association

Ambassador Niels Hansen,
Vice President of the Atlantic Treaty Association
and former German Ambassador to NATO

The Atlantic Treaty Association (ATA) is taking on new challenges and broadening its mandate in this new era of Euro-Atlantic affairs. This was demonstrated recently when it amended its Constitution to formalize the status of the now 13 Associate Members from Central, Eastern and Northern Europe, granting them equal rights in almost all aspects of the ATA. The organization serves increasingly as an important forum for dialogue with NATO-oriented non-governmental organizations in countries which have concluded Partnership for Peace (PfP) agreements. Another new perspective of the ATA will be the Mediterranean.

The Atlantic Treaty Association, founded in 1954 at The Hague, comprises non-governmental Atlantic committees. Like the Alliance, it has responded to the political and military developments of the 1990s, as reflected in the activities as well as in the structure of the organization. This was enshrined in its Constitution, after its general overhaul was unanimously adopted at the 42nd General Assembly, held in Rome in November 1996. In addition to its original aim "to educate and inform the public concerning the missions and responsibilities of NATO", the new Statutes provide that the "research into the various purposes and activities of NATO" now also comprises "the development of their extension to countries of Central and Eastern Europe as well as to pursue a dialogue with those bordering the Mediterranean".

To this end, the ATA has opened itself to "Associate Members" from states which have signed PfP agreements with NATO. Atlantic committees and NATO clubs in many of these countries have been cooperating with the ATA since 1992, including through participation in the Assembly and the Council. They now enjoy the same rights as the 16 "founder members", short of voting on amendments of the Constitution and on the dissolution of the ATA. And they provide one of the six Vice Presidents, whom they choose from among them.

In Rome three such new countries, namely Belarus, Georgia and Sweden, became Associate Members and, together with Albania, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Russia, Slovakia, Slovenia and Ukraine, this brings the total to 13. Associations in other Central and Eastern European countries are also expected to apply for membership. The Associate Members chose as their first Vice President the Chairman of the Bulgarian Atlantic Club, Dr. Solomon Passy, who has been particularly active with the ATA over the last few years. Bulgaria attended the recent Assembly with the largest delegation - more than 60 people - and it has offered to host the Assembly in 1997, on the invitation of Sofia's Mayor Stefan Sofijanski, who presented a paper in the Political Committee in Rome.

The enlargement of the ATA, whose decisions are in no way binding on NATO member states, was carried out under the leadership of Presidents Tapley Bennett and Haluk Bayülken and, above all, outgoing ATA Secretary General, Ambassador Jean Béliard, who visited various Associate Members during his term of office. It takes place at a time when the "New dimensions of Atlantic security", which was the theme of discussions in Rome, are taking clearer shape. In this context, an enhanced dialogue with decision-makers, scholars, interested professionals and, not least, young people from the PfP countries, in the framework of ATA and its regional member organizations, is more significant than ever. As long as full membership of NATO for those states aspiring to it has not yet been achieved, ATA serves, like the North Atlantic Cooperation Council, Partnership for Peace and the North Atlantic Assembly, as a constructive forum in which they can participate on an equal footing. The fact that Russia participates in this forum is particularly significant.

The new members of the ATA have been getting acquainted with the Alliance through visits to Brussels and the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE), as well as through participation in various symposia and seminars. ATA's Atlantic Education Committee and the Atlantic Association of Young Political Leaders are very much involved in this process too.

The Mediterranean, to which five NATO member states and two PfP countries are directly adjacent, is an aspect of Atlantic security whose importance is growing. In Rome, the Assembly's Political Committee addressed the question of "Stability through Cooperation in the Mediterranean Region", with the participation of the head of the Albanian Atlantic Association, Vice Minister of Defence Dr. Alfred Moisiu. It should be noted, however, that the ATA has not yet begun a dialogue with non-NATO countries of the region.

Jean Béliard, who has retired after more than 12 years as ATA's Secretary General was warmly thanked in Rome for his outstanding service. Throughout his tenure, he maintained close contacts with NATO headquarters, the North Atlantic Assembly, WEU and the EU. His successor, Professor Alfred Cahen, former WEU Secretary General and, until recently, Belgian Ambassador in Paris, is especially qualified to continue the dynamic process begun by his predecessor, including strengthening the links to the partner organizations.

The ATA has stood the test in the new political and security environment of recent years, remaining loyal to its traditional vocation of promoting transatlantic solidarity, while fulfilling new tasks as well.

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