Wednesday, November 17, 2010

My statement from the NATO parliamentary assembly 161110

(The NATO secretary general, Anders Fogh Rasmussen chose to send the NATO Parliamentary Assembly a video message instead of showing up in person. His excuse was he was too busy preparing for a Summit meetings of Heads of State and Government later this month. An insult to the parliamentary process. I decided to address this despite there were no Q&A after the video, I was granted the space to do this. Heads of state are serving the parliaments and the parliaments are serving the people. It is important to always remember this. Rasmussen seems to have forgotten this obvious fact.)

Statement made by Mrs. Birgitta Jonsdottir, member of the Icelandic delegation to the NATO-PA, 16 November 2010 at the Annual Session in Warsaw (after Secretary General of NATO´S video message)

Thank you Mr. President,

I greatly appreciate the Assembly’s stated purpose to provide a forum for the exercise of parliamentary scrutiny of NATO and to create a context for the Alliance to be ruled in a democratic fashion.  At a national level, subjecting military establishments to democratic control is no easy task. But it becomes even more challenging in a multi-national context.

I therefore find it utterly baffling that the Secretary General of NATO has chosen not to appear before this body today. I also understand that he did not meet with the heads of our delegations at the annual February meeting in Brussels.

Secretary Generals of large alliances are indeed busy people, particularly when those alliances are entangled in tragic wars. But what we are talking about here is a wilful effort on the part of the Secretary General to avoid subjecting himself and his institution to the essential and sometimes uncomfortable rigors of democratic accountability.

To put it bluntly, we did not travel to Warsaw to conduct a dialogue with a video image of the Secretary General of NATO. Speaking with a television is, in itself, a rather absurd exercise – but it becomes well nigh impossible when that image is a pre-recorded one. I suspect that I am not the only parliamentarian who sees this matter as an affront to the people we represent.

I would therefore like to urge the leadership of the Assembly to make it very clear to the current Secretary General that our members will not tolerate any deviation of the very fundamental exercise in democratic scrutiny. NATO cannot be allowed to become an unaccountable body.