The Norwegian Representative to the North Atlantic Council, on instructions from his Government, has circulated a Note (document C-M(53)112) suggesting that contact be established between the Council and the legislatures of member countries. A copy is attached as Annex A.? The proposal is that, as a "tentative and modest" step in this direction, "a conference of a limited number of parliamentarians from each of the NATO countries be arranged in the autumn of this year, preferably after the Ministerial meeting of the Council". It is stressed that the conference should be short (one week) and purely informative (not consultative), but it is also suggested that arrangements might later be made for similar meetings once or twice a year.
2. Norway has, for several years, been a consistent advocate of a measure along these lines. It is evidently its educational value that is the chief attraction to the Norwegians, the Government hoping thereby to exercise a more direct influence on Parliament and the parliamentarians hoping to influence Government policy more effectively. The present initiative has arisen out of a recent recommendation by the Foreign and Constitutional Committee of the Storting that the Norwegian Government should propose in NATO a parliamentary assembly which might foster a series of new and useful ideas and would give an opportunity for Western cooperation in fields other than the purely military. The Committee felt that such an assembly would not need any formal advisory authority as its debates would provide sufficient guidance to the Council.
3. The idea of a North Atlantic assembly of parliamentarians has, of course, been put forward in different forms on a number of previous occasions. An outline of the background history is contained in Annex B.? The Committee of Five22 which considered the question in connection with its study of Article II matters, made no general recommendations and concluded that this was a subject which could best be dealt with on the basis of experience. When the matter was taken up again after the Lisbon meeting, the Council was of the opinion that, rather than call conferences of parliamentarians, Governments should encourage the creation of parliamentary Atlantic Community groups on an informal basis. International meetings between parliamentarians interested in NATO might be considered later and might, it was thought, develop gradually and spontaneously as a result of the activities of national groups.
4. The attitude of the United Kingdom. and the United States has, in the past, been unfavourable toward the actual establishment of a NATO parliamentary assembly. Recently, however, (during the Three-Power Conference of Foreign Ministers in Washington) Mr. Dulles suggested that study might be given to the possible arrangement of meetings, under NATO auspices, of parliamentary representatives from NATO countries and the possible creation of some official parliamentary structure. Apparently the suggestion was enthusiastically received by Lord Salisbury and M. Bidault "did not demur".
5. Our NATO Delegation in Paris have warned us that the Norwegian proposal will be discussed in an informal meeting of the Council on August 21 and have requested our views both on the question of principle involved and on the financial implications. They have expressed sympathy with the objective but have warned that, judging from the experience of the Council of Europe, parliamentarians may not be satisfied to come to Paris only to meet each other and to receive general information on NATO activities; they may raise questions as to their corporate status and may take up the idea of a NATO parliament. What may be involved ultimately may be no less than the relationship between the Council and national parliaments. As to the financial implications, the Delegation have suggested three possible solutions if a parliamentary conference were, in fact, to be held: expenses could be paid by the parliamentarians themselves; by their governments; or by NATO.
6. Some of the arguments for and against the Norwegian proposal may be briefly summarized as follows:
(1) Such a meeting of parliamentarians would increase the public understanding of the work of NATO and would thereby widen the base of public support which is essential to the carrying out of Government policy.
(2) At the present time, in particular, when NATO is no longer making spectacular headlines, there may be a special need for bringing home to the public the true significance of NATO.
(3) Such a meeting would provide useful contact at the parliamentary level between North American and European elements in the Atlantic Community and would, in particular, expose United States congressional representatives to outside opinion on international trade policies.
(4) It is perhaps an appropriate time to encourage public and parliamentary interest in the Atlantic Community and the non-military aspects of the North Atlantic Treaty.
(1) An unguided general debate by parliamentarians might, like some of the debates in the Council of Europe, be so discursive and ill-informed that it would produce more obfuscation than clarification of the important issues.
(2) There may be a security risk in releasing to parliamentarians (particularly those from some of the European member countries) sufficient information to enable them to discuss seriously the most important problems involved in the work of NATO.
(3) Such a meeting might be irresponsible in producing proposals which have no chance of acceptance by Governments and which, therefore, might lead to public disillusionment.
(4) Such an assembly might concern itself with its own status and attempt to establish some formal consultative link with the North Atlantic Council.
7. It would seem that the pros are based mainly on the possible educational value of the proposed meeting of parliamentarians, and that the cons involve the practical difficulties in achieving these advantages, difficulties which arise, for the most part, out of the danger that the scope of such an assembly may quickly expand far beyond the bounds of an informal meeting. This may, in turn, raise the fundamental issues of the relationship between the North Atlantic Council and national parliaments and the ultimate shape and form of the Atlantic Community. If the advantages to be gained merit taking the calculated risks involved, we should presumably support the Norwegian proposal. On the other hand, it might, in fact, be argued that these advantages could be obtained as effectively and without the same attendant risks by other means, such as visits to NATO Headquarters by groups of parliamentarians and various public information methods. The safest course at this juncture, however, may be to wait and see how much support the proposal attracts in the Council and, if it appears to be generally supported, to emphasize the educational and informative aspects of the proposed meeting. In this connection, we might refer back to the proposal considered by the Information Policy Working Group last October, that the programme for a parliamentary session at NATO Headquarters might include a briefing on the work of NATO, private background discussions and perhaps, also, visits to NATO Commands.
8. I have consulted officials in the Department of Finance on the financing of such a meeting if it is held and would suggest that, of the three possible methods, we should favour financing by Governments.
9. Would you agree to our sending guidance along the lines of the foregoing paragraphs to Mr. Wilgress in Paris?
Il s'agissait d'un Comité ministériel composé des représentants de la Belgique, du Canada, de l'Italie, de la Norvège et des Pays-Bas, créé par le Conseil de l'Atlantique Nord au cours de sa réunion à Ottawa du 15 au 20 septembre 1951 pour "étudier le renforcement de la communauté nord-atlantique et, en particulier, la mise en oeuvre de l'article II du Traité de l'Atlantique Nord". This was a ministerial committee composed of representatives of Belgium, Canada, Italy, the Netherlands and Norway established by the North Atlantic Council at its meeting in Ottawa, September 15-20, 1951, "to consider the further strengthening of the North Atlantic Community and especially the implementation of Article II of the North Atlantic Treaty."