Legal professionals from across Europe, Central Asia and the United States gathered to discuss issues ranging from the NATO Status of Forces Agreement to education Sept. 13-17 in Budapest.
The International legal Conference, jointly sponsored by U.S. European Command and the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies, gathered better than 100 people from 34 countries. The conference also brought two participants from Russia, who participated in discussion and attended breakout sessions.
In a video message to the group, Adm. James Stavridis, Supreme Allied Commander Europe, kicked off the conference by outlining his No. 1 priority which he called “lawfare.” He defined it as a point of integration between law, terrorism and warfare; “that nexus of law, terrorism and combat.
“And we need you to parse that so that those of us who are operators stay on the right side of those activities,” he said. He also praised the work judge advocates do for the military services around the world. “I very much value and appreciate all that you bring to the profession of the law and to the important work that we do in the European theater.”
The week-long event included briefings about European energy security issues, civil-military relations, inspector general systems and more. Briefers included Rear Adm. Nan DeRenzi, the deputy staff judge advocate for the U.S. Navy, James E. Baker, a judge for the United States Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces and Lynne Halbrooks, the principal deputy inspector general for the Department of Defense.
Kirk Samson, legal engagement coordinator for EUCOM and one of the conference organizers, said he felt the talks and networking among professionals hit the mark.
“We’re making good progress on getting our allies to work on legal issues now and to coordinate and communicate with each other in a friendly, collegial manner,” he said. “Some great discussions all around.”
The NATO Status of Forces Agreement took center stage more than once throughout the week. Serge Lazareff, one of the architects of the agreement, was on hand for the discussions. A panel discussion on the future of the NATO SOFA followed.
The goals of the conference included integration, discussion, consultation and, where needed, resolution of many issues. Navy Capt. Lindy Bunn, the newly appointed judge advocate general for EUCOM who served as the moderator for the week, said each session built on the command’s goal of “stronger together.”
“We want to build dialogue and bridges for people knowing each other,” Captain Bunn said. “We want to find collective solutions to challenges before they become crises so that we can move forward in the coalition building process.”
In providing a warfighter’s perspective, Rear Adm. Charles Martoglio, EUCOM chief of staff, defined how important lawyers were in a number of processes, including wartime target selection. “It is in times like this that the world looks to people like us,” he said. “What will be demanded of you in the future will only grow in complexity.”