Chapter 7: Legal personalities
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This chapter addresses one fundamental aspect relating to NATO’s institutional structure: the theme of “legal personality”, which clarifies what NATO “is”. Initially, it approaches this question from the concept of “legal position”, which better explains NATO’s pertinent particularities. While common understanding of the acronym “NATO” denotes one single organisation, the Allies have set up a structure which de facto comprises three distinct international organisations: the International Staff in Brussels and the two Supreme Headquarters in Mons (SHAPE) and in Norfolk (HQ SACT), respectively. This implies that these bodies enjoy their own treaty-based legal position. These three organisations together with their subordinate NATO bodies form an all-encompassing single organization (NATO). NATO’s threefold legal personality rests upon two documents which have generally permitted the NAC to establish civilian and military bodies to better achieve the functions and purposes of the organization: the 1951 Ottawa Agreement and the 1952 Paris Protocol. The chapter traces NATO’s institutional development and evolving legal position over the Alliance’s history.

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