Brussels, NATO HQ | 06 Feb 2019 (Tirana Echo) – NATO representatives of the Alliance’s 29 members have signed the Accession Protocol for the Republic of North Macedonia to become the 30th member of the club. The signing ceremony took place in the presence of Macedonian Foreign Minister Nikola Dimitrov.
Macedonia’s membership has been blocked over the past 28 years due to a name dispute with its southern neighbor Greece, which claims the name of ‘Macedonia’ and its historical connotation for its northern region.
Following intense negotiations between Skopje and Athens, both countries have now agreed to a name change for the former Yugoslav republic (FYROM) into North Macedonia, clearing the way for the Euro-Atlantic integration of the small Balkans state.
NATO had last year formally invited FYROM to becoming a member of the Alliance, pending a successful ratification of the name change as agreed with Greece.
Following the signing of the Accession Protocol, North Macedonia can now take part in NATO activities as an invitee. The accession process now moves to the capitals of the 29 Allies where the Protocol will be ratified according to national procedures. The country will become a member of NATO as soon as all NATO members have ratified the Accession Protocol.
Speaking following the signing ceremony NATO Secretary Jens Stoltenberg said, “NATO keeps almost one billion citizens across Europe and North America secure and with you joining NATO there will be thirty countries committed to protect each other. Your accession will bring more stability to the Western Balkans. This is good for the region and for Euro-Atlantic security.”
Mr. Stoltenberg congratulated both Skopje and Athens for showing commitment and courage in reaching an agreement on the name issue.
North Macedonia already makes important contributions to NATO’s training mission in Afghanistan and the Alliance’s KFOR peace keeping mission in Kosovo.
With Macedonia’s membership, NATO closes in its borders in the Balkans further sealing its presence in a region where Russian interests are at play. Albania, Montenegro, Croatia, Bulgaria and Romania are all NATO members, and the Western Alliance is already present in Kosovo, leaving only Serbia as Russia’s hand in the region.
Political analysts expect Moscow to undermine the deal which would further delay Macedonia’s de-facto membership into NATO.
The 2m small Balkan country already provides valuable support to NATO-led operations and missions in Afghanistan and Kosovo.
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