Thursday, 14 December 2017 | News today: 14

We will do our best to join NATO

We will continue to work hard towards reaching an even higher interoperability level of the Macedonian Army with the armed NATO forces, since it is primarily beneficial to our safety and prosperity, but also for the region, Europe and the entire international community

Former negotiator on the name issue, Zoran Jolevski, is the new name in Nikola Gruevski’s new government. Jolevski replaced the ambassador seat in Washington with the ministerial chair in Ministry of Defence. Greatest challenge, he says, is achieving the strategic goal – NATO membership.

You have returned from Washington to take over the Defence. What challenged You to do that and what do You expect to change in the Army after Your mandate?

Jolevski: Firstly, I completely agree with you that being a part of Defence is a major challenge. However, I would add it is both major responsibility and a great honor. I can assure Macedonian public I will use all my knowledge, connections and gained experience to promote this sector. Achievement of strategic goals – NATO and EU membership – is a joint effort we are mostly focused on. Considering that reforms directly affect the Army of the Republic of Macedonia (ARM) and Defence Ministry employees, followed by all Macedonian citizens, one must mention that the process of modernization and continuous education of defence sector employees is our main effort. We will commit ourselves to education and intellectual growth of the Army, meaning we pay attention to development of the most important element to an institution – human factor! Those are our priorities which we will not make compromises for.

Macedonian Army is a leading institution in many areas. We must be aware it is equal to other fully-fledged NATO member states in terms of reforms and development. It is definitely a proof Macedonia deserves to be part of the North-Atlantic Alliance. At the same time, I would like to add that ethnic minority communities members comprise 27,5% of the Army, while we are also fully committed to the implementation of the 1325 resolution, or gender equality and gender perspective. We strive very hard to increase the female representation above the current level of 8,5%.

What are Your priorities regarding the Army modernization process and maintaining high combat readiness level?

Jolevski: Modernization of the Army is a process of high importance, but also a long-lasting process, considering Macedonia’s Budget framework. According to Macedonia’s new Long-term Defence Development Plan: 2014 – 2013, which encompasses a Modernization Plan, we have determined the dynamics and manners to approach this serious challenge. As for maintaining combat readiness, Macedonian Army continues with its regular training activities, which, along with the international missions participation, have received high grades by our foreign partners. My goal is for Macedonia to dispose of a small, mobile, efficient, well-trained and modern army, prepared to face even the most serious challenges.

NATO and First Sergeants of the Army had remarks on the decline of the fulfilled Alliance standards from years ago. What is your impression? Has the Army really been neglected in the recent years?

Jolevski: ARM has the capacity to fulfill its constitutional duties and obligations. Our soldiers and first sergeants are well-trained and rise to the occasion of the uniform duties. It is a fact that the global financial and economic crisis had negative influence on Macedonian Budget, hence also on the Defence Ministry budget, but we have found and we keep looking to more efficient solutions to the challenge. Namely, the innovative decisions and following of the “smart defence” concept established by NATO, we maintain and further develop our combat readiness and our capacities. Allow me to use this occasion to note that as of last year, the first Center for NATO Education functions in Macedonia and the Defence Minister, exclusively focused on public relations. Same thing goes for the Military Academy regarding cyber security, which we must further develop.

Straight answer to your question is most evident through comments of our partners in the international peacekeeping missions, especially ISAF mission in Afghanistan. Macedonian peacekeepers always present themselves as extremely professional and highly skilled. Our “ambassadors of peace” manage to fulfill their duties and show that ARM deserves great respect by taking its duties with exceptional seriousness.

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Will You continue to be a negotiator in the name dispute?

Jolevski: I can assure you that Macedonia remains to be fully committed to the process under the auspice of the United Nations to reach mutually acceptable solution which will protect Macedonian identity and dignity. The negotiator is an important element of the negotiations, but, similar to anywhere in the world, when it is a matter of national interest, negotiations directions and framework are defined by consults and directives of the state summit. The negotiator is just one link in that process. He presents his view on the negotiations, takes part in the discussion for defining of the position and after a stance on certain matters is established, using diplomatic and negotiating skills, he transfers the stance at the meetings with the envoy and the other party negotiator. What matters for Macedonia is that it is in contact with the UN Special Envoy Nimetz, that we are prepared for his visit, which we hope will be soon. It means there is no delay in the contacts with Ambassador Nimetz and Macedonia  participates in the process using its full capacity.

How would you assess Macedonia’s odds for receiving an invitation to join NATO at the upcoming Summit in Wales?

Jolevski: Macedonia is prepared to immediately accept all responsibilities which arouse from the fully-fledged membership to the North-Atlantic Alliance. The issue one member state has regarding our name,  is the sole obstacle. I would like to assure you and the Macedonian public that we will do our best to reach this strategic goal of ours. Moreover, we will continue to work towards reaching an even higher interoperability level of the Macedonian Army with the armed NATO forces, since it is primarily beneficial to our safety and prosperity, but also for the region, Europe and the entire international community.

Considering USA’s plan to withdraw its soldiers from Afghanistan, when can we expect for Macedonia to do the same?

Jolevski: Macedonian Army and Macedonia successfully contributes towards building peace, democracy and equality in Afghanistan for over a decade. We plan to finalize our presence in Afghanistan by the end of the year, but we plan to continue contributing to NATO’s mission post ISAF after 2014, naturally in accordance with our capacities and abilities. It refers to fact that Macedonia remains to be committed to spread contemporary values in the future, in all parts of the world. Macedonian Government has decided to remain present in Afghanistan, side by side with our allies, in accordance with the goals of the next NATO mission to this country.

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Are there plans on any new missions for Macedonian Army members?

Jolevski: Macedonia and the Ministry of Defence intend to continue contributing to securing peace on global level. Hence the decision on participation in international peacemaking missions wherever needed, in accordance with our capacities. Our Army members currently participate and represent our country in the ISAF mission to Afghanistan, in the EU operation in Bosnia and Herzegovina – EUFOR ALTHEA, as well as in UN’s mission to Lebanon – UNIFIL. I have already mentioned Macedonia is prepared to take part in the “Resolute Support” mission to Afghanistan post 2014, and our partners do know that. Macedonia will review all participation requests for future UN peacekeeping missions and will make a decision in compliance with our capacities and the strategic determinations of the country.

ARM my real home” project of the Defence Minister Zoran Konjanovski at that time did not receive the same devotion by his successors. Is the process of providing apartments for military personnel still an ongoing project, or has it stopped, or will it maybe be resumed within your mandate?

Jolevski: As far as this matter is concerned, I would like to inform you that this project has never been stopped. Project paperwork tasks and activities competition is in the final phase. Macedonian Defence Ministry is prepared to inform the Government on the updated dynamics plan on further steps and action of this project. Let me add that this project would solve the residence issue of over 500 Macedonian Army members, will directly influence their moral and motivation, and I, as a Minister, will offer my full support to this project.

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By: Nenad Mircevski

Photo: Aleksandar Ivanovski