NATO countries signed today the accession protocol for the Republic of Macedonia, which, after ratification, should join NATO as its 30th member.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, who alternated between referring to Macedonia as “the future Republic of North Macedonia” and “Skopje”, said that with the ratification, the country will fully participate in decision making in Brussels. Greece, which blocked Macedonia’s NATO accession since 2008, is required to be the first to ratify the accession protocol, taking the main obstacle out of the way.

We’ve had 18 cycles of the membership action plan, to give you an illustration, and it didn’t just happen, Macedonian Foreign Affairs Minister Nikola Dimitrov said to illustrate the extreme length of the Macedonian NATO accession process. Dimitrov praised Zoran Zaev for signing the Prespa treaty, under which Macedonia undertook to change its name into North Macedonia and to allow unprecedented Greek interference in internal discourse and education, in exchange for a promise that Greece will allow it to join EU and NATO.

When asked about Macedonia’s military readiness to join the EU, and the failure to spend more than 1 percent of GDP on defense, Stoltenberg said that the commitment will eventually be met.

They have shown that they can contribute to our shared security because the country is already participating in NATO missions. We exercise together with them, they participate in our mission in Afghanistan and we’ve seen they can implement reforms. They have pledged and clearly committed to continue to modernize and strengthen their military forces. Their defense spending is increasing and it is a clear commitment by the Government in Skopje to spend 2 percent of their GDP by 2024, Stoltenberg said.