Brussels/Washington, Friday 7 February 2020 – “NATO remains the bedrock of our security and a beacon of stability for our partners.” This was a key message Attila Mesterhazy (Hungary), Acting President of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly (NATO PA), delivered during his first presidential visit to Washington D.C. “Its strength lies in its military, economic, and technological prowess; in our vow to defend each other; and in our commitment to the values of democracy, individual liberty, human rights, and the rule of law. The NATO PA supports all these dimensions through parliamentary diplomacy.”
In meetings with Congress, administration officials and think tank experts over the course of three days, President Mesterhazy focused on the role of parliamentary diplomacy in strengthening the transatlantic bond, defending the democratic values underpinning NATO and supporting the Alliance’s adaptation to the challenges of today and tomorrow.
On Wednesday 5 February, President Mesterhazy testified before the US Helsinki Commission on The Power and Purpose of Parliamentary Diplomacy: Inter-Parliamentary Initiatives and the U.S. Contribution. The US Helsinki Commission is an independent commission of members of the US House of Representatives, the Senate, and the executive branch. It monitors and encourages compliance with the Helsinki Final Act and other OSCE commitments.
Speaking together with the President of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly (OSCE PA), George Tsereteli (Georgia), President Mesterhazy stressed that “the NATO PA has redoubled efforts to promote and preserve the democratic values underpinning NATO”. “We will continue to protect and uphold our democratic values through forthright discussions with Allied and partner delegations alike”, he pledged.
During the hearing and in meetings with Representative Gerry Connolly, Head of the US Delegation to the NATO PA, NATO PA Vice-President Representative Mike Turner, and other members of the US delegation, Mr Mesterhazy thanked the United States Congress for its consistent bipartisan support for NATO and the NATO PA, emphasising that the United States’ commitment remained absolutely vital for European security. This commitment also rang clearly in statements made by Representative Alcee L. Hastings, Chair of the US Helsinki Commission, Co-Chairman Senator Roger F. Wicker, and other Commissioners during the hearing.
On Wednesday and Thursday, President Mesterhazy discussed the US administration’s 2020 priorities for NATO with Kathryn Wheelbarger, Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs, and Maureen E. Cormack, Acting Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Department of State’s Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs.
He stressed the need to keep NATO’s firm position on Russia, emphasising that there should be no unconditional dialogue or return to business as usual. He also called on NATO to reckon with the challenge posed by China’s geopolitical ambitions and the “bank rather than tanks” approach. He further urged Allied parliaments and governments to maintain support for Ukraine and Georgia’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and Euro-Atlantic aspirations, warning against fatigue and the temptation to consider these “frozen conflicts”. Lastly, he urged continued attention to the Western Balkans, cautioning that any vacuum left by Europe and North America would be rapidly be filled by other powers.
President Mesterhazy elaborated on these themes during roundtable conversations at the German Marshall Fund and the Center for European Policy Analysis.
He also underlined the importance of continuing to build support for NATO among Allied publics. “NATO cannot survive without public support. In a time of widespread disinformation, it has become more difficult for Allied governments and parliaments to explain to their publics why NATO remains indispensable.” The NATO PA leads active outreach and communication efforts, President Mesterhazy stressed. “We must devote particular attention to our younger generation and explain that NATO is an investment in their future”, he urged.
Photos of this visit are public, courtesy of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, and can be found on Flickr .
Full hearing, "The Power and Purpose of Parliamentary Diplomacy", can be viewed here.