The General Assembly of Atlantic Treaty Association is the biggest annual gathering for more than 40 countries. The 58th annual General Assembly of the Atlantic Treaty Association and the 17th General Assembly of the Youth Atlantic Treaty Association were held in Rome, Italy, from Monday 4th to Wednesday 6th of February 2013, in the NATO Defense College. The entire organization was held and organized by the Italian Atlantic Committee (Comitato Atlantico Italiano). The GAAEC delegation was represented in all events and between the delegates was Mr. Theodossis Georgiou, President of GAAEC, and 4 young members of Greek Youth Group: Ms. Maria Stamatopoulou, Ms. Maria Katsiou, Ms. Despina Fronimaki, Ms. Lelde Mencendorfa.
Here with this is the report written by the Youth Department of GAAEC.
Monday, February 4, 2013 (Youth Atlantic Forum)
Forum 1: The new generation and the future of the broader middle east
In the first forum, chaired by Professor Peter STANIA, the subject discussed was the Arab Spring and its implications, as well as NATO’s role in the region. Professor Stania stressed the highly instable character of the Mediterranean region, which is mainly due to its vicinity to the particularly conflictive Middle East and North Africa (MENA) countries, where regional as well as international actors want to have a say, while the European Union’s power is on the decline.
Starting with Amira MEKHEIMAR, emphasis was drawn on Egypt and the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood and FJP’s (Freedom and Justice Party) Mohammed Morsi, current President of Egypt. The latter, under the flag of economic development according to the speaker, has implemented policies that provide him with the power to legislate without judicial oversight or review of his acts and sign an Islamist-backed constitution into law after a national referendum. However, while 60 percent of voters supported the constitution, only a third of the electorate participated, a fact questioning to an even greater extent Morsi’s legitimacy. The floor was afterwards given to Mrs. Nabila RAMDANI, Journalist and Political Commentator, who analyzed the crucial contribution of the youth and the social media to the Arab uprisings. According to her, the youth tends to have a broader horizon and to be more educated, which enabled them to play the role of the catalyst to opening the way for Panarabism and the peoples’ pursuit of a more just and free society in the MENA region, even in smaller countries such as Bahrain and Yemen. However, Mrs. Ramdani made clear that without radical reform and consolidation of stable democratic bases, the Arab Spring will not bear fruit, and that the West has to provide its expertise in the field of democratic transition and acknowledge its fault in cooperating with authoritarian leaders for the sake of regional stability. Professor Amer AL-SABAILEH shared the same views on the matter, as he also stressed out the importance of a solid democratic basis and the creation of a national identity in a highly sectarian environment, in order to establish a viable democratic regime in the Arab states. Finally, Columnist and Political Commentator Sultan AL-QASSEMI emphasized on the role and the impact of social media in the Arab uprisings, their vast effect on people being a reason for restrictions of the freedom of expression. In the questions and answers session that followed, the main subject was the exportation (on the behalf of the West) of a particular democracy model, and to what extent this is viable in states with a sectarian and authoritarian background, such as the MENA countries.
Forum 2: The Future of NATO Partnerships
The second forum, chaired by Mr. Bruno LETE, treated the subject of the future of NATO, and revolved around three basic pillars: the rise of new powerful countries (such as the BRIC countries), the global economic crisis leading to budget cuts, as well as the change in the character of the transatlantic cooperation due to the pivot of the American interests towards Asia and the pacific on the one hand, and the Arab uprisings on the other hand.
Mrs. Antonia COLIBASANU was the first one to take the floor, mentioning the importance of the current economic crisis which has evolved to a political crisis as well. What is important is to keep Europe engaged to NATO, especially during a time of rising nationalism and state introversion due to the severe economic crisis. Mrs. Colibasanu also talked about the importance of closer NATO-Russia cooperation, the latter being a considerable ally in missile defense and international security. Mr. Elkhan MEHTIYEV also referred to the importance of cooperation between NATO and Russia, with a particular view to Iran’s nuclear programme. Mr. Tommy STEINER mainly focused on the current debate concerning the NATO pivot towards Asia and the Pacific, and said that this is not the case, as closer cooperation between NATO and the European Union is not only pursued, but also a necessity, given the current geopolitical changes in the Mediterranean area. Mr. Haseeb HUMAYOON referred to the new role NATO will have to play in view to the withdrawal of NATO troops from Afghanistan in 2014, which has been, until now, one of NATO policy main pillars, as well as to the challenges having to do with the modernization of the Alliance’s systems and capabilities.
Tuesday, February 5, 2013 (General Assembly, Atlantic Treaty Association)
Forum 1: NATO 2020
Chaired by Dr. Karl-Heinz KAMP, the first forum as well concentrated on global changes and their impact on NATO’s policies and role overall. Dr. Kamp drew attention to several particular factors that are considered vital to the Alliance: the NATO troops withdrawal form Afghanistan, the global financial crisis which implies cuts in defense budgets, as well as the growing difficulty for members to contribute to the Alliance budget, the rise of the BRIC block, the American “pivot” towards the Asia-Pacific region, the changes in the energy sector and regional conflicts, and the Arab Spring in particular. Relations with Russia still remain as important in calculating NATO’s policies and actions. The same parameters were mentioned by Ambassador Gabriele CHECCIA, who gave particular attention to the role of new partners in burden sharing, and to the need to find common aims and policies with Russia. Then, after taking the floor, Dr. Frances G. BURWELL, Vice President of the Atlantic Council in the US, commented on the need for greater efficiency through closer cooperation, in addition to ensuring cyber security and implementing educational programs. Furthermore, Professor Tanja MISCEVIC stressed the importance of involving the people and discerning between partners and operational partners. With a view to enhancing efficiency, Professor Julian LINDLEY-FRENCH proposed additionally the remodeling of the defense basis of NATO, the implementation of educational programs based on the experience gained in Afghanistan, and finally adopting a common nuclear weapons policy.
Forum 2: Cooperative Security in the Mediterranean and in the Middle East
The second forum referred mostly to the situation in the Middle East and to the role of NATO in the region, and was chaired by Mr. Fabrizio W. LUCIOLLI. The first lecturer of the panel, Nicola DE SANTIS, Head of the Mediterranean Dialogue and Istanbul Cooperation Initiative Countries Section in the Political Affairs and SecurityPolicy Division of the NATO Headquarters in Brussels, stressed out that the MENA countries have always been an area of particular interest to NATO, a fact proved by the initiation of the Mediterranean Dialogue program, established in 1994, even if it was slow as a process and did not require some form of institutional commitment. Afterwards, Khaled Fouad ALLAM spoke about the democratic transition process in some Arab states, where Islamic radicalism is on the rise, resulting in uncertain political circumstances. According to him, the new regimes should not overlook the role and their relations with rising powers such as China and Turkey. Dr. Yasemin TASKIN, correspondent of Sabah, concentrated on Turkey and its foreign relations, especially with western partners who are currently undergoing a financial crisis, in contrast to Turkey, where economy is flourishing, while at the same time preserving the country’s religious and traditional character. This development combined with the difficulties faced by Turkey with view to its integration as a European partner, have enabled it to address alternative allies, such as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. As to Turkey’s relations with regional partners, Mrs. Taksin mentioned that since uprisings in the MENA countries are of global interest, Turkey’s actions with view to those regions should be very careful, as they will have a direct impact at an international level. The floor was then given to Mr. Oraib AL-RANTAWI, who emphasized mostly on the conflict between Israel and Palestine, and the attempts of the Alliance to resolve the crisis through the Arab Peace Initiative, which did not bear fruit. Mr. Al-Rantawi did not reject the assertions about Arab extremism, but added that the same happens from the part of Israel, where, in fact, 20% of the population is Arabic. As a final remark, he made reference to the Iran uranium enrichment program and mentioned that as long as Israel implements analogous programs, it isn’t rational to ask for a unilateral termination from the part of Iran, especially in the context of a growing need for WMD proliferation all across the Middle East.
The final speaker, Mr. Danny ROTHSCHILD, referred to the Islamic movements, which, according to him take advantage of the economic instability to justify the strict character of governance of the new regimes. Congruent with his remarks, the outcome of the Syrian civil war is crucial not only to Israel, but to the entire western world, as Syria constitutes one of the most important regional players given its military power.
Wednesday, February 6, 2013 (General Assembly, Atlantic Treaty Association)
Forum 3: Modern Defense and Economic Development
The third forum brought into focus the question of modern defense in the sense of cyber security. According to the speakers, the future situation is likely to become even more perilous as more financial resources are being invested on internet security. As a consequence, the core threats and risks will advance from simple data leakage and denial of services to more substantial threats.
What is needed is a change of perceptions when it comes to the core notion of security. Students, as well as researchers, need to understand that research needs to be more practical and directed towards manufacturing, as well as view the “e-security” as one of the Alliance’s core concerns.
More specifically, after taking the floor, Mr. Shai BLITZBLAU made an interesting comparison between the current and future situation when it comes to cyber security and cyber weapons. With this intention, he made notable reference to the research in the field of cyber security. According to Mr. Blitzblau, it is expected that the length of cyber weapon life will be considerably shorter in the years to come, this factor having to be taken into account in Universities, where until now research is slowly advancing, hence not being able to catch up with current changes, not to speak of future advancements, reducing the average life expectancy of cyber weapons from 1-3 years to 6-12 months.
To that end, it was the speaker’s firm belief that research capabilities, with a special view to academic research capabilities should take the changes mentioned above into account and implement a different and more easily-adaptable approach to the definition of cyber security.
In outline, during all fora, particular attention was drawn on:
- The current situation in the MENA countries, due to their military and energy background. The common point in all talks was the need for help in institution building and policy implementation from western democracies to new regimes to prevent a failed-state case. Particular attention should be given to Islamist movements which are prevalent in most new regimes, a fact which can mainly be put down to lack of a substantial and articulated opposition, and leads to oppression of people despite their efforts for a more free and equal society.
- The new role NATO is called to play not only in the Mediterranean, but also in view to the troops withdrawal from Afghanistan, the financial crisis resulting in defense spending cuts, the rise of new players like the BRIC countries, the need for closer cooperation with Russia, and new global threats and challenges, such as cyber weapons.