The conflict in Ukraine and NATO's increasingly strained relations with Russia top the agenda as hundreds of delegates from the NATO Parliamentary Assembly gather in Lithuania this weekend for its three-day Spring Session (30 May - 1 June 2014).
Meeting in the capital Vilnius, the deputies are expected to condemn Moscow's destabilizing role in Ukraine and recommend that NATO governments increase their support for Ukraine, while applying firmer sanctions on Russian officials.
The draft text of the declaration which the Assembly is expected to endorse on Friday expresses the parliamentarians’ support for Ukraine’s territorial integrity and democratic process, as the country held key elections over the weekend.
“The presidential election in Ukraine has been endorsed as a success by international observers, including the NATO PA. This is a major milestone in placing the country's political machinery back on track. All Ukrainians and neighbours like Russia should take this unique chance to restore national and regional stability through dialogue and politics,” NATO PA President Hugh Bayley said ahead of the session.
The future of NATO itself will also be debated in Vilnius. Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen is expected to highlight the changes in Europe's security landscape in light of Russia’s actions in Ukraine and their implications for the Alliance as it prepares for a summit in Wales this September.
Lithuanian Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevicius and several government ministers will also speak, along with Andriy Parubiy, secretary of Ukraine's National Security and Defence Council.
In draft reports to be debated during the meeting, which runs from May 30 to June 1, the parliamentarians will look at the energy implications of the Ukraine conflict, given Europe's dependency on Russia as a supplier, as well as latest developments with Iran's nuclear programme.
The future of Afghanistan following the withdrawal of international combat troops will be widely discussed during the session which will draw 360 delegates from the 28 NATO nations and 23 associate and observer countries.
A field of international experts will also share their views with the Assembly on the US pivot toward Asia and its ramifications for the allies, missile defence and the future of Euro-Atlantic arms control given deteriorating ties with Russia.
The Syrian conflict is also on the table, along with security in the Sahel and North Africa.
NATO's Parliamentary Assembly brings together members of national parliaments from the 28 Allied nations as well as partner countries, observers and organisations. It is an essential link between the Alliance and national parliaments - and therefore, to citizens in the Euro-Atlantic area.
Source: NATO PA web-site