NATO PA Standing Committee discusses COVID-19 Crisis, Open Skies Treaty, and the Way Forward

29 May 2020

In a first for the NATO Parliamentary Assembly (NATO PA), the members of the Standing Committee – the Assembly’s governing body – met remotely to discuss the response to the unprecedented coronavirus crisis and its aftermath as well as other crucial issues on the transatlantic security agenda.

“Our countries have already gone through an unprecedented crisis in the past few months. But the health crisis is not over yet. Moreover, it will have a profound impact for many more months, perhaps even years after the virus is under control,” President Attila Mesterhazy (Hungary) told delegates when opening the meeting. 

It is extremely important we continue to meet during this period, even if we cannot do so in person,” President Mesterhazy stressed.From the onset, we have paved new ways for continuing our important work. As legislators representing all NATO nations, we must address the issues affecting the Alliance head-on. First and foremost, we must discuss the way out of this crisis and the first lessons learned.”

Delegates engaged in comprehensive discussions on how the pandemic could impact the Alliance, in particular the potential impact on national defence plans, policies, and budgets.

Reviewing the Assembly’s response to the COVID-19 crisis, the Standing Committee endorsed further virtual meetings, six special reports, and other ways of addressing the current challenges.

“This crisis should not detract from other international priorities, however. Challenges and threats we faced before have not gone away. Some actors may even be tempted to take advantage of the situation. We must be ready for such scenarios,” President Mesterhazy said.

During a wide-ranging exchange of views, a key debate centred on the recent developments regarding the Open Skies Treaty and, more broadly, responses towards Russia’s ongoing non-fulfilment of its international obligations.   

“Today, I heard that members of the Standing Committee agreed that the Alliance must remain committed to effective arms control, disarmament, and non-proliferation, taking into account the prevailing security environment and that Russia must urgently return to full compliance with its treaty commitments,” said President Mesterhazy.

Members also discussed Thursday’s approval by China’s National People’s Congress to extend controversial National Security Laws to Hong Kong. “Several members expressed their strong and serious concerns about the law, which could have grave consequences for the city’s special status,” President Mesterhazy underlined.

The Standing Committee also discussed several matters of internal Assembly business. In particular, it confirmed President Mesterhazy and Vice-Presidents Philippe Folliot (France) and Karl A. Lamers (Germany) in their respective positions. All had been previously serving ad interim.

The Standing Committee is composed of the leaders of the NATO PA’s 30 member delegations, members of the Bureau and the Chairpersons of the Assembly’s Committees and Mediterranean and Middle East Special Group. It is chaired by the Assembly President.