Updated: 12-Nov-2001 NATO Speeches

7 November

Presentation to the EAPC

by Rafael ESTRELLA,
President of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly

Mr Deputy Secretary General, your Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

I am pleased and honoured to be with you this afternoon to provide an overview of the activities of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly in what has become a regular event in our relationship with NATO.

We meet in the shadow of the terrible events of September 11th and at the beginning of the struggle to deal with the perpetrators.

As you would imagine, these events dominated our annual session in Ottawa three weeks ago. Terrorism was the theme of a special plenary debate and a declaration, which, I am sure you have read, by the Assembly as a whole.

Let me highlight three aspects of the Ottawa debate:

  • First, the unanimity of our own members;
  • Second, the declaration of support by our associate delegations;
  • Third, the strenuous efforts made by the Russian delegation to associate themselves with the resolution.

In Ottawa, we also asked all of our Committees to reassess their activities and to see how they should each address terrorism in their future work, within the scope of their respective competences.

We all realise that this issue will preoccupy us for years to come and will require cooperation and coordination in many areas and at many levels. It also creates a new perspective for many of the existing challenges we face. Without prejudging the adaptation of our work, let me highlight several areas of obvious interest:

Areas of concern

  • By invoking Article 5, the Allies has shown their highest expression of solidarity and expressed their commitment to deliver upon it. What will be the future implications of this decision? And, if you allow me, has life changed under Article 5?

  • We are well aware that fighting against terrorism requires, above all, political and diplomatic action. However, will terrorism be given more prominence in Alliance activities, for example, in the strategic concept and particularly as regards cooperation on weapons of mass destruction and civilian catastrophes?

  • What effect will the struggle against terrorism have on the shape of our armed forces and their related expenditures to support action against terrorism and its consequences?

  • How can we use the EAPC framework for the many efforts that must now go forward to confront these new threats to our security?

  • How can we contribute to address the shortfalls of globalisation, so that it reaches the lives, the welfare and the human rights of the "have nots"?

  • Lastly, will current developments accelerate the trend towards major changes in the forces deployed in the Balkans?

    In my personal opinion, if the United States decides that it wants to withdraw its forces from the Balkans, we should clarify whether this is because the 10,000 troops are desperately needed or does this represent a real shift in US strategic priorities in which Europe and the Balkans go down on the list.

    This must be first and foremost a NATO debate. As also should be the debate as to how they would be replaced, if that is necessary, within the scope of a NATO-led mission; remembering that NATO's assets and command structures, for the time being, cannot be made available to any other institution.

  • Needless to say, the process of building ESDP remains a matter of high interest for us. Of particular concern is how the ESDP can 'go operational' when it still lacks essential capabilities or has to rely on NATO? This is just of the many pending question marks on the future of ESDP.

These and other concerns will certainly test the cohesion of our transatlantic relationship. Again, we will play our part in providing a platform for discussing these issues with our American colleagues. A new initiative, the Transatlantic Parliamentary Forum, which we will launch in Washington D.C., in cooperation with the Atlantic Council of the United States and the National Defence University, in December will be the venue for a first high level exchange of view on these issues.

Cooperation and partnership

One thing is clear - the events of September 11 show the enormous importance of NATO's policy of partnership and cooperation, and should certainly lead to a deepening and a widening of this process.

For ten years, our work with partner parliamentarians has reinforced NATO's PfP, especially in assisting partner countries facing the massive challenge of defence and security sector reform.

We have been helping our parliamentary colleagues to become aware of their responsibilities in overseeing security and defence policy, and providing them with the experience and expertise to exercise this role effectively.

Reform of armed forces and defence establishments is essential to all countries regardless of whether they are candidates for Alliance membership or not. This week, for example, we have a parliamentary meeting with the Ukrainian Rada in Kiev focussing on the reform of Ukraine's armed forces.

I should note that we have been particularly grateful to the Swiss for their very considerable support of our "outreach" program.


With the Prague Summit looming, the next round of enlargement will, for obvious reasons, dominate many of our proceedings next year. With our Spring meeting taking place in Sofia, we can look forward to an energetic debate.

I believe that the events of September 11 make NATO enlargement even more important and should dispel any caution about moving too far or too quickly. The new environment calls for bold action. The Assembly has always supported the open door policy, without restrictions, and I personally believe that we should be looking at an invitation that goes well above the zero option.

I am not superstitious, I am sure no-one in this audience is, but we all have our lucky or favourite number. Mine happens to be seven, which, I know, has no particular relevance here.

There are evident and profound changes in NATO's nature as it embraces new missions in addition to its permanent role. Those changes; which now appear to be acknowledged by Russia, support the idea of a broad and regionally balanced enlargement to be launched in 2002, in a more politically oriented approach to NATO's role in Europe's security and stability.

Caucasus, Central Asia

Our own geographic focus will evolve, so that we can look more closely at the regions which, for many reasons, have an increasing importance in Euroatlantic security This means paying more attention to Central Asia, a region we had felt unable to embrace in our programmes so far.

We will also intensify our work on the Caucasus, with a first Rose-Roth seminar in the region in 2002. I also intend to visit Armenia and Azerbaijan early next year at the invitation of their parliaments.


This brings me to relations with Russia. Already before 11th September cooperation between the Assembly and the Russian Parliament had resumed with great enthusiasm on both sides. The new security developments will only accelerate the momentum. In Ottawa, I signed a "Framework of Cooperation" with the leadership of the Russian delegation to the Assembly; the reading of which, I recommend to you.

We know that one of the greatest obstacles to closer cooperation has been Russia's refusal to see that NATO is changing. Yet, in signing the framework, I believe we saw the first chink of light. The Russian delegation modified a text which characterised their approach as seeing NATO as a "threatening alliance" to one in which NATO is described as "a possible threat".

Terrorism will be high on the agendas of both the Committees and our Monitoring Group in which, jointly with our Russian colleagues, we examine the implementation of the NATO-Russia Founding Act. I expect the meeting of the Monitoring Group in Moscow later this month to focus heavily on the developments in and around Afghanistan.

Three of our Committees will meet their Russian counterparts in Moscow next year in what will now become an annual meeting of the NATO PA in the Russian Parliament.

In these and all our meetings, we will be focussing on areas of practical cooperation but also working to reduce suspicion and build mutual trust and confidence in order to better understand each other's views.

As an indication of this confidence building, the Assembly will hold for the first time next January a staff training programme devoted exclusively to the Russian Parliament.

The Balkans

The threat of terrorism makes ever more vital the development of functioning societies where previously there has been instability and conflict and the spectre of failed states. Nowhere is this more true than the Balkans. For the Assembly, this means:

  • to intensify our work and contacts with the region;

  • specifically, to use our good contacts with the Parliament of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia to press them to establish the legal and constitutional basis that will make for sustainable, peaceful relations between the communities;

  • to develop relations and provide material assistance to both Yugoslavia and Bosnia;

  • In this respect, we will be hosting a two-day course on security and defence for Bosnian Parliamentarians in early December.

The Mediterranean

Trust is needed between East and West, but it is also very much required between North and South. As we said in our Ottawa declaration "we will not fall into the trap of the terrorists who want to lure us into a conflict between religions or cultures". This is why our Mediterranean dialogue is of particular relevance. We shall hold our yearly seminar with partners of the Southern and Eastern rims of the Mediterranean in Malta in a few weeks. I would hope that, through this seminar, the Assembly could contribute to sustaining the cohesion of the international coalition against terrorism. Also, to keep building dialogue and cooperation with our Southern Mediterranean countries. The recent meeting here at 19+7 is to me an encouraging step forward upon which we must build.

Ladies and gentlemen,
In the security environment in which we live, the new roles and missions of the armed forces, the urgent need for defence reform and restructuring, the influence of the revolution in information technology and now the struggle against terrorism all suggest a higher profile for parliamentary involvement.

The need for public and parliamentary understanding and support is never higher than during those periods when armed forces are in action and when lives are at risk. Demands for results are intense, memories short, and fears of civilian losses understandably acute. Parliamentarians bear the responsibility not just of reflecting public anxiety to governments, but of explaining to their constituents why painful policies are necessary and of justifying the new expenditures that could be requested to cope with this new threat.

The Assembly is determined to fully exercise its role in fostering informed debate and improving parliamentary awareness of these key issues.

It is also aware of the need to prepare future generations to meet the new, perhaps even more difficult challenges of international security of this century. I would therefore like finish by thanking NATO for its support, once again, this year, to our New Parliamentarians Programme. I trust that this programme will enable us, over time, to build a core of leaders across the EAPC countries who are fully equipped to tackle the security challenges of their time - however complex they may be.

I thank you for your attention.

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