Chancellor Merkel and NATO chief De Hoop Scheffer: ‘parliaments should debate NATO reform’

27 May 2008

Chancellor Merkel and NATO chief De Hoop Scheffer: ‘parliaments should debate NATO reform’

The parliaments of NATO's member states should be involved in discussion of NATO's new strategic concept. The existing 'strategic concept' was adopted in 1999 and is considered outdated. Speaking at this week's meeting of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly in Berlin, General Secretary Jaap De Hoop Scheffer and German Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel both expressed the view that NATO must work with countries outside the alliance and with other international organisations in a global security structure. SP Senate leader Tiny Kox, who together with SP colleague Senator Arjan Vliegenthart is a member of the Netherlands' delegation, responded.

Senator Kox complimented Secretary General De Hoop Scheffer on his call for a broad public and parliamentary debate on the future of NATO and asked him to stress that the national parliaments must take their role seriously. In response, the NATO Secretary General could not say what effect his call should have in the Netherlands, but said that he would be pleased to see the Dutch Parliament holding such a debate.

Chancellor Merkel described the development of a new strategic concept as exciting and challenging. In the present circumstances, she said, there is no place for a superpower which decides everything, and all NATO countries must cooperate with the United Nations, the European Union, and with countries outside the alliance such as Russia and Australia.

De Hoop Scheffer said that NATO neither could nor wished to be the world's police force. What the world needed, however, was a global agreement of partners.

Kox and Vliegenthart were pleased by what De Hoop Scheffer and Merkel had to say in Berlin, insofar as it would increase pressure on Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen to present Parliament with the government's initial thoughts on the future of NATO, which the minister has said he will do shortly after the summer recess. Time is pressing. In 2009 an Atlantic Declaration will sketch out the broad lines, and following that, in 2010, the new strategic concept itself must be laid out. The SP wants to see a stronger role for the UN and an end to the US domination which has led NATO to adopt an aggressive intervention policy.

The NATO Assembly also held a broad discussion on Afghanistan, during which major differences of opinion emerged. While Afghan military commander General Karimi said that a military victory over the Taliban was certain, NATO's General Ramms was unwilling to go further than to state that a military defeat seemed to him unlikely. A real victory would, however, require social, economic and political progress sufficient to persuade the Afghans that things were improving. According to former NATO Commander-in-Chief General Jones, the alliance was not holding a winning hand, while other experts said that defeat was a serious possibility. Senators Kox and Vliegenthart feel that all in all there are reasons enough to pursue with determination a negotiated end to a war which has already lasted seven years, a view heartily endorsed by Pakistan's Senator Khan, a representative of Pakistan People's Party, the party of the recently murdered leader Benazir Bhutto. According to Khan, the war is disastrous, above all for the people of Afghanistan, but also for Pakistan, which has to date seen a thousand soldiers lose their lives on the Afghan frontier. The longer the war went on, the greater the chance that it would spill over into Pakistan. Only a negotiated end to the war could prevent this, the Senator insisted.

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