Distinguished Mr. Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg,
Your Excellencies, Ambassadors, Permanent Representatives of NATO Member States,
Let me first express my great satisfaction with the fact that the North Atlantic Council is paying a historic visit in a very important period for North Macedonia.
I believe that you have a busy working day, so I will try to be brief and focus on the key messages that I think are necessary to emphasize.
During the past period, as a country, we underwent many important changes that opened the path for North Macedonia towards full membership in the Alliance.
I am convinced that everyone present here appreciates the essential democratic progress and the implemented reforms aimed at restoring the institutional and legal order in the country. I would not list all the reforms. Here, I will only point out the signing of the two key agreements with our neighbors and friends, Greece and Bulgaria, the Prespa Agreement and the Treaty of Good Neighborly Relations with Bulgaria.
Last week I visited the Ministry of Defense and the General Staff, where I was first hand informed about the reform efforts and the plans for equipping and modernizing the Armed Forces in the light of the future full-fledged membership in the Alliance. I expressed my satisfaction with the fact that the priority in these reform processes is given to the declared NATO units.
At the same time, I commended the commitment of the Government of the Republic of North Macedonia and the Ministry of Defense to achieve the goal, as a future NATO member state, North Macedonia to allocate 2% of its GDP for defense expenditures. This goal will be reached by 2024.
Moreover, as President of North Macedonia, having in mind my competencies in security and intelligence services, I will insist on their thorough reformation in accordance with all the highest NATO standards. This will be my constant personal commitment, and I will actively monitor the developments thereto and strive to see the progress made in this area as soon as possible.
I avail myself of this opportunity to extend my gratitude to the Permanent Representatives of the Member States that have ratified the Accession Protocol so far and, at the same time, to underline that we are pleased with the ratification dynamics. We expect that the other countries will complete the internal-legal procedures, and the process will be finalized by the end of the year.
As a state, we remain committed to contributing to the preservation of global peace and stability, fight against international terrorism, and therefore we are ready, in the coming period, to increase our participation in NATO-led peacekeeping operations.
For us, NATO membership is one of the biggest cohesion factors in our multiethnic society, and the support for the process is constantly high, years back, which obliges us, as a country, to continue with the reforms even as a full-fledged NATO member.
In addition, we are deeply convinced that the NATO membership of North Macedonia will positively affect regional security and stability and thus the impact of external malignant factors will be reduced to a minimum.
Ladies and Gentlemen, in my entire professional engagement, I was led by the idea to help the processes that have brought today the country to full membership. I assure you that, in me, as President of North Macedonia, and in my team, you have a partner and supporter of everything that is and that will be a regional and global priority of the Alliance.
With this in mind, let the express my appreciation, distinguished Secretary General and Permanent Representatives of the Member States, for the continued support and assistance that NATO has provided us with all these years through various forms, as well as through the direct presence of the NATO Liaison Office in Skopje, North Macedonia.
Confident that we will soon have the opportunity to meet again at the NATO headquarters in Brussels, dear friends of North Macedonia, I thank you for your visit today.