The two assemblies first took up contact at the beginning of the 1990s. In 1990, two American parliamentarians, Charlie Rose (a member of the House of Representatives, who at the time was President of the NAA) and Senator Bill Roth, launched the programme of seminars and conferences which has been named after them. They were aimed at consolidating cooperation between the parliaments of Central and Eastern Europe. The circle was subsequently opened up to include neutral countries and others which are members of the Partnership for Peace.
And so, since 1993, the NAA has invited representatives from our parliament, on an ad hoc basis, to send delegations to certain events it organises, mainly seminars. Whenever possible and when the themes to be dealt with have been of interest, the offices have sent the chairmen of the Committees on Security Policy. It was at the annual meeting of the NAA which was held in Paris in 1996 that the Swiss parliament was first invited to attend a plenary session as an observer. In March 1997, in collaboration with the NAA, the Swiss parliament organised a seminar in Geneva which focused on the subject of neutrality in Europe, its purpose and its future. Since then, the federal parliament has regularly been represented at the NATO-PA’s sessions as well as at most of the seminars organised by the NAA or the NATO-PA. On each occasion, the Swiss parliament has been represented by its presidents or members of the Committees on Security Policy.
On 31 May 1999 Switzerland was accorded the status of associate member of the NATO-PA. This was brought about through an initiative launched by the chairmen of the Committees on Security Policy, former National Councillor Jean-Pierre Bonny and former State Councillor Eric Rochat, which was accepted by the offices of the federal parliament at the beginning of February 1999. In March 2000, the Swiss parliament organised a second seminar together with the NATO-PA, this time in Montreux. The theme was the participation of military personnel in civilian and humanitarian missions.
Switzerland was initially represented in the NATO-PA by two parliamentarians. Under the new Parliament Act of 2003 and associated legislation (notably, the Parliamentary Delegations Ordinance of 3 October 2003, PDO, now no longer in force), the NATO-PA delegation became a permanent Swiss parliamentary delegation. Since then, 5 parliamentarians have represented Switzerland at the NATO-PA sessions.
As an associate member the Swiss delegation may take part in almost all the activities of the committees and sub-committees and attend all the seminars, including those surrounding Mediterranean issues, as well as the plenary sessions. At the latter, associate members may put forward resolutions and submit amendments to resolutions. Their delegates may be appointed as special associate reporters for a committee so that their points of view are taken into account in the Assembly’s reports. They may not vote on reports or resolutions, however, nor elect executive officers of the NATO-PA. They do not contribute funds to the NATO-PA budget. As a neutral country, Switzerland cannot and does not wish to become a full member of the Assembly.