Sunday, 18 November 2018 | News today: 0

NATO accession talks begin

Macedonia’s NATO accession negotiations are set to officially begin on Thursday and Friday in Brussels, where members of the Committee for NATO integration and the Working Committee on Macedonia’s Integration with NATO will meet with Alliance representatives involved in the evaluation whether the country meets NATO’s criteria.

This session of talks in Brussels will open the last stage of Macedonia-NATO pre-accession relations following the country’s membership invitation extended at the Summit in Brussels in July, according to National NATO Coordinator Stevo Pendarovski.

Pendarovski, together with Vice-Premier and Defense Minister Radmila Sekerinska and Foreign Minister Nikola Dimitrov, held a press conference on Tuesday to provide details regarding the NATO talks in the context of the parliamentary debate on the motion for revision of the Constitution as a result of the name dispute deal with Greece.

“All of this should happen with the implementation of the Prespa Agreement, in line with the prevailing political will of the majority of Macedonia’s citizens,” Pendarovski said.

“According to all analyses made by relevant institutions and individuals, our NATO membership will greatly increase the country’s security and stability, while serving as a glowing example of and contribution to regional security, stability, and prosperity.”

He explained that the Committee for NATO integration, which is at the ministerial level, was formally re-established after Macedonia received the membership invitation.

The Working Committee on Macedonia’s Integration with NATO, on the other hand, which Pendarovski chairs, is at the operative level and it has already started performing duties laid out in the draft program for continuing reforms.

The primary focus of this program, which will be presented at the Working Committee’s first meeting, is the rule of law, judiciary reforms, the fight against corruption and organized crime, defense and security reforms, as well as legal issues arising from Macedonia’s NATO membership.

The talks will be held in two sessions. The first will address political and defense issues related to the outlined criteria, and the second session will cover issues related to resources, security, legal aspects as well as Macedonia’s contribution to the Alliance’s budget. The tentative completion date of the talks will be determined during this stage of negotiations.

Pendarovski noted that the process should finish by the end of 2018, considering Macedonia is to sign during January 2019 the accession protocol granting it rights to participate in all NATO bodies without the right of vote – and full membership is to follow after all member states have ratified the accession protocol in their national parliaments.

In the case of Macedonia, Greece is expected to be the first member state to ratify this protocol, as soon as our country carries out its own obligations arising from the Prespa Agreement.

“Being granted full membership will accomplish our strategic goal, and it will provide a strong guarantee of stability, security, the permanence of borders and safeguarding territorial integrity.

“NATO membership is an important prerequisite for economic growth, investment stimulation, better-paid jobs, and prosperity,” Defense Minister Sekerinska said.

She pointed out that now is the time when all MPs should show they support NATO membership by their actions and not merely their words.

“All political parties are facing a historic opportunity,” Minister Sekerinska said. “By pressing the Yes button, they will take part in the final steps of our homeland’s 27-year marathon to enter NATO.”

“Macedonia’s success is up to them.”

Minister Sekerinska said that NATO accession talks and amendments to the Constitution were processes to be carried out in parallel.

“It’s evident that Parliament’s decision will determine whether Macedonia becomes a NATO member in the very near future. It should be clear to all MPs that it’s up to them whether Macedonia takes this chance.

“We have been talking about NATO and the EU for a long while, and now is the time to put those words into action. Each vote will count towards whether Macedonia opens the door to NATO,” Minister Sekerinska said.

If this doesn’t happen, she added, and the opposition chooses their party interests over the interests of the country, Parliament is expected to announce snap elections, at which, according to Sekerinska, “we will obtain a two-thirds majority.”

“Either way,” Sekerinska said, “Macedonia and its strategic goals must win, and we have no doubt it will happen.”

Foreign Minister Dimitrov said that NATO membership not only guarantees national security and prosperity but also affirms Macedonia’s integrity and identity.

“We took up the responsibility,” Minister Dimitrov said. “Now it’s up to Parliament to complete the process. The stakes are high. NATO, on the one hand, is the most powerful defense organization in the world, but on the other hand, it’s an economic club, because membership comes with many economic benefits. It’s a message that Macedonia is here to stay within its borders.”

FM Dimitrov said that if the process should fail, it was uncertain if another Greek government would re-open the issue and under which conditions.

He added that almost 94 percent of voters who participated in the referendum were in favor of NATO and the EU.

“We mustn’t shirk our responsibility,” Dimitrov said. “There’s no greater patriotism than taking responsibility and having a vision for the future.

“We will establish the identity of the Macedonian people through the recognition of the Macedonian language.

“We will enter NATO as Macedonians, and together with all our fellow citizens, we will share the fate of our Macedonia and make way for starting EU negotiations.”

“The alternative is uncertainty, or worse,” Dimitrov said, recalling NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg’s many statements as of late that there was no Plan B regarding Macedonia’s membership other than implementing the Prespa Agreement.