Dear students, Colleagues,
Distinguished Ambassador Burns,
Let me extend my gratitude for the invitation to address you today and debate with American College students.
Given that we are soon expecting to round off NATO membership with the last ratification by Spain, the topic is very relevant these days. I will dwell on several aspects of why to become a NATO members important for the long-term stability and security of the country and the region.
The process of ratifying our membership is underway. This means that after receiving the invitation to join NATO, in July 2018, each NATO member has to ratify the Accession Protocol for our membership, and, once all 29 countries have completed the procedure, our Parliament will ratify it, i.e.will adopt a decision to become a NATO member, and the instrument for our membership will be deposited in Washington, where the North Atlantic Treaty, the founding document of NATO, was signed in 1949.
Membership in the Alliance has been our old strategic priority, since the beginnings of our independence, when the Resolution on the Republic of Macedonia’s Accession to NATO was adopted, a decision that was backed by all parliamentary parties in 1993. In November 1995, we signed the Framework Document for Accession to the Partnership for Peace Program, and two years later we were admitted to the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council. In June 1996, we opened the Liaison Office, and in late 1997, our Permanent Mission in the NATO Headquarters in Brussels. In April 1999, at the NATO Summit in Washington, we obtained the candidate status for membership, after which we started with the implementation of the Membership Action Plan.
NATO membership is important to us because, as a small country with limited defense and security resources, is essential to be part of a collective security system. For example, Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty reads that if one Member State is attacked, the response will be collective. This means that, as a future NATO member, our security is guaranteed by all NATO member states. Moreover, we have the opportunity to save resources, i.e. to apply an effective way of investing and spending on defense. For example, our skies will be patrolled by Greece, through a regional cooperation system, rather than investing our own resources for that goal, which, if executed completely on our own will certainly overburden our economy.
NATO membership enables our Army to be part of a global security and defense system, in close connection and cooperation with the armies of our partners, all of them being among the strongest military structures in the world.
However, NATO does not only mean security and military training, but, also, development and a new labor market and a new market for our companies. NATO has various public diplomacy, research and development programs that can include students, NGO community and universities. Possession of a “NATO standard” will mean that our companies will have access to a larger market in all the NATO member states for which they can provide services and products.
Do not forget that NATO membership also means sharing the same values. The North Atlantic Treaty itself stipulates that the North Atlantic Alliance members are committed to preserve “the freedom, common heritage and civilization of peoples based on the principles of democracy, individual freedom and the rule of law”, as the basis of the collective defense system and protection of peace and security.
So far we have proven that we can fulfill our obligations as a NATO partner country, and we are ready to fulfill our obligations as a future member state by investing more in the defense budget which should be 2% of GDP in the future. By joining NATO, we will be on the same table with the other 29 allies, with equal voting rights for the Euro-Atlantic security, and a state where security is guaranteed for every investor, an environment where stability can be predicted, which will lead to greater economic growth.
To be honest, all security risks will not disappear with our NATO membership. We live in a dynamic world where security threats are asymmetric and cannot be always foreseen. Terrorism, religious extremism, cyber attacks, fake news campaigns, hybrid wars are a reality and will not disappear anytime soon. Yet, the best way to deal with modern security threats is collective security, because we will not be alone. We have allies with whom we can pool resources and respond together. With our NATO membership, there will be greater regional stability, too.
However, NATO membership will also be beneficial for our domestic stability. Why? Because, behind our European and Euro-Atlantic integration processes is high and constant consensus at the national level, starting from the political elites, businesses, the NGO community,and concluding with the most important massive citizen’s support. NATO membership is strengthening our internal cohesion, and that is certainly a basic precondition to implement long – term strategies to further develop our society and the state.