The Hungarian government of Viktor Orbán, to which the EU threatens to freeze the delivery of funds for violating the rule of law, especially in the fight against corruption, has vetoed the creation of a center for the promotion of democratic values within the NATO. The initiative was discussed at the 68th annual session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Atlantic Alliance, which closed on Monday in Madrid, with the participation of 269 deputies from the parliaments of the 30 allied countries.
In the conclusions of the Committee on Defense and Security of the Assembly, a point was included in which it was urged to “concretize the commitment to common democratic values through the creation of a Center for Democratic Resilience within NATO, which it would serve as a resource to promote democratic values and protect the institutions that give strength to allied democracies.” It would be a question, explain sources from the Alliance, of setting up a center of excellence like the ones that NATO already has on cyber defense or disinformation.
It was the President of the Assembly up to now, US Congressman Gerald E. Connelly, who, at the inauguration of the plenary session, brought the debate to light by stressing that, “for the first time, the Strategic Concept [de la OTAN, aprobado en junio pasado en Madrid] identifies authoritarianism as a challenge to our democratic way of life. It’s not just Russia [es] also China or authoritarianism in general, both inside and outside” of the allied countries, he added. In case there were any doubts as to what he was referring to, Connelly recalled that he was inside the Capitol when, on January 6, 2021, he was “razed by a violent mob” that did not accept the electoral defeat of Donald Trump.
According to the congressman, it was as a result of this episode that he raised the need to provide itself with “a specific architecture dedicated to promoting democracy” to the NATO Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg, since the Alliance has hundreds of specialized departments, “but nor a broom closet to strengthen democratic institutions.”
“Today, 29 of the 30 [países] Allies support our proposal for the Center for Democratic Resilience and we need that vote that we are missing and you know who I am talking about”, he concluded.
Although he did not cite it, he was alluding to Hungary, which rejected the initiative on the grounds that NATO “should not impose a model of democracy” on its members, according to sources familiar with the debate. Orbán describes his government model as “liberal democracy”, but the European Parliament has defined it as a “hybrid regime of electoral autocracy”. NATO makes its decisions by consensus, so Hungary’s veto prevents the creation of the pro-democracy center.
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This is not the only reason for Budapest’s friction with its allies: in addition to opposing Western sanctions against Putin, Hungary is the only country, with Turkey, that has not yet ratified the entry of Sweden and Finland into NATO, although the Hungarian government has promised to do so in December. There are fewer guarantees with the Turkish Erdogan, who continues to demand that the two Nordic countries act against the Kurdish refugees in their territory. For this reason, Stoltenberg did not dare yesterday to commit to the Swedish and Finnish leaders attending the Vilnius (Lithuania) summit as full allies in July 2023, although he assured that both countries have received security guarantees from various allies until they are protected by the NATO umbrella.
The great protagonist of the meeting of the Parliamentary Assembly was the Ukrainian president, Volodímir Zelenski, who spoke before the plenary by videoconference. As he demanded from the representatives of the Atlantic Alliance, one of the documents approved in Madrid urges the governments and parliaments of the NATO countries “to declare without the slightest ambiguity that the current Russian regime is a terrorist regime”; a declaration that amounts to the severance of diplomatic relations. In addition, the Assembly requests that the NATO-Russia Founding Act of 1997 be formally denounced, which gave birth to a fleeting stage of cooperation between both parties.
Also in line with kyiv’s demands, another of the resolutions approved yesterday advocates creating “an international court in charge of prosecuting the crime of aggression committed by Russia against Ukraine” and imposing on Moscow the obligation to compensate for all the damage caused.
The creation of a special court bothers countries that, like Spain, are in favor of strengthening the International Criminal Court (ICC), based in The Hague (Holland). This objective, however, runs up against the fact that neither Russia nor Ukraine are part of the Court and Moscow can hinder their functioning as a permanent member of the UN Security Council. The kyiv government, the sources consulted allege, does not want to risk being sitting on the bench for the war crimes that its troops could have committed. For this reason, the resolution of the NATO Assembly limits the scope of action of this hypothetical international court to the crimes of the Russian invaders.
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