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Brussels, 30 April 2019 – Senior policy makers, including many former government officials from NATO and partner countries, celebrated the Rose-Roth programme – the NATO Parliamentary Assembly’s flagship partnership initiative – at the programme’s 100th seminar held in Brussels, Belgium, on 25-26 April.
This milestone seminar focused not only on the legacy of the Rose-Roth partnership initiative but also charted possible ways forward for the Assembly’s outreach and engagement with partners. The participants included several prominent former Assembly members who had been closely associated with the seminar series over many years. The presentations and discussions provided ample testimony to the important contributions the seminar series, and the Assembly as a whole, have made to the development and implementation of NATO’s partnerships and “Open Door” policies.
Simon Lunn, former Secretary General of the NATO PA and key architect of the seminar series on the operational level, noted that “the Assembly was often ahead of the game on partnership issues” because of the way it encourages dialogue among participants who may also disagree.
Rasa Jukneviciene (Lithuania), former NATO PA President and former Defence Minister of Lithuania, reminded the participants that the first Rose-Roth seminar took place in Vilnius, Lithuania in December 1991 few months only after the Soviet Union recognized the Baltic states’ independence. Lithuania was then still occupied by the Soviet army which earlier that year had sought to crush Lithuania’s struggle for independence, she noted. “The seminar was the beginning of Lithuania’s journey to NATO”, she stressed. The Vilnius seminar was also the first interparliamentary forum in which the withdrawal of Soviet forces was discussed by parliamentarians from NATO countries together with parliamentarians from the Baltic states and Russia.
Karsten Voigt (Germany), former NATO PA President and currently Member of the Governing board of the German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP) stressed that “NATO enlargement would not have happened without the NATO Parliamentary Assembly.” He elaborated this point by arguing that “the NATO PA has no power, but it has influence”. During the 1990s NATO PA delegates often went back to their home countries where they launched and often led their national debates about NATO partnerships and enlargement.
Assembly President Madeleine Moon (United Kingdom) noted that “NATO’s partnerships and enlargement were vital in pursuing the vision of a ‘Europe whole, free and at peace’”, adding that the “NATO PA is proud to have taken on an active part in this transformative process”. Paying tribute to the initiative’s “founding fathers” United States Congressman Charlie Rose and Senator Bill Roth, Ian Brzezinski, Senior Fellow, Atlantic Council, noted that “as we celebrate the 100th seminar, we have to realise that the mission is not done”. In a similar vein, Rasa Juknevicience said that “we have to have dreamers and to dream about the future”. She added that she “is dreaming of a democratic Russia in the future” and that “countries like Ukraine can help Russia to be different”.
Addressing NATO’s relationship with Russia, NATO’s Assistant Secretary General for Political Affairs and Security Policy Alejandro Alvargonzalez dismissed the often-repeated official Russian narrative that “NATO has moved East” as false. In reality, “NATO has not moved to the East, the East has moved to NATO”, he stressed. He added that NATO’s door remains open to applicant countries that fulfil the membership criteria.
Georgian and Ukrainian seminar participants were keen to underline their countries’ commitment to joining the Alliance with several expressing the view that NATO had been too cautious in advancing their progress. Giorgi Baramidze (Georgia), Member of the Political Council of the United National Movement and former Vice Prime Minister of Georgia, commented that it would be wrong to ask Georgia to wait until Russia changed. He and others noted that membership in the Alliance has actually normalized the Baltic countries and Poland’s relations with Russia. Concerning Ukraine, all participants condemned Russia’s annexation of Crimea and its aggressive actions in the east of the country.
Seminar participants also unanimously agreed that the need for dialogue, and for the Rose-Roth seminar series, remains as high as ever. James Mackey, Head of the Euro-Atlantic and Global Partnership section at NATO HQ, noted that there are “still lots of misperceptions about what NATO is and what it has done” in NATO partner countries. Ruben Diaz-Plaja, Senior Policy Advisor in the Policy Planning Unit in the Office of NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg commented that “partnerships have been crucial in terms of building capacities, and societal resilience both in member and partner countries”. Both welcomed the Rose-Roth seminars’ meaningful contributions to tackling these issues.
Rose-Roth seminars also help to tackle a “tendency towards more authoritarian rule and weakening of parliamentary control and role” as Thomas Guerber, Director of the Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of the Armed Forces (DCAF), noted. The exchanges among the participants generated numerous ideas of how to develop the Rose-Roth seminar series in the future. These included, among others: reaching out to universities and engaging future policy-makers, addressing newer challenges, such as fake news, focusing on the immediate neighbourhood and NATO aspirants while also continuing to engage more sceptical audiences.
NATO PA Secretary General David Hobbs concluded the seminar by noting that “the NATO PA’s unique features – adaptability, flexibility and the ability to bring a parliamentary and civil dimension to NATO partnerships” will enable the Assembly to evolve its agenda, and the Rose-Roth seminar series in particular.
The Rose-Roth programme of co-operation with the parliaments of Central and Eastern Europe was initiated in 1990 by then-President of the Assembly Congressman Charlie Rose and Senator Bill Roth.
The original goal of the programme was to assist partner countries in Central and Eastern Europe through their challenging transition process to democracy after the fall of the Berlin wall, which involved the implementation of difficult political and economic reforms.
Since the first seminar held in Lithuania in 1991, the Rose-Roth programme has brought together parliamentarians from NATO member states and NATO partners, senior NATO officials, government and military officials, academics, experts, journalists and civil society activists, to exchange best practices and seek common solutions to security and political challenges.
The anniversary seminar was hosted in cooperation with the Belgian Federal Parliament, NATO’s Public Diplomacy Division, the government of Switzerland and the Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of the Armed Forces (DCAF). The government of Switzerland supports the Rose-Roth programme financially and through DCAF’s expertise.
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