The President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, Stevo Pendarovski, addressed today the central ceremony, which was held at the “Ilinden” barracks in Skopje, on the occasion of August 18 – the Day of the Army of the Republic of North Macedonia and the jubilee “30 Years of the Army”.
Within the central ceremony, President Pendarovski honored the first Minister of Defense, Trajan Gocevski, the Logistics Base of the Army and the Reserve Officer Organization of the Republic of North Macedonia, with the Order of Military Merit.
Trajan Gocevski is honored for his contribution to the formation of the Army as a legitimate and regular armed force of the Republic of North Macedonia.
The Logistics Base of the Army is distinguished for its special, strategic, long-term contribution to the planning, coordination, organization and execution of the logistical support of the commands and units of the Army of the Republic of North Macedonia, thus enabling successful execution of all tasks in peace, war and crisis. The Logistics Base demonstrated its readiness with a series of activities during the handling of the migrant crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Reserve Officer Organization is distinguished for its special contribution to the building and strengthening of the defense capability of the state and affirmation of the military profession on the occasion of 70 years since its establishment.
Moreover, President Pendarovski promoted Colonel Sashko Lafchiski, with a Decree, to the rank of Brigadier General and appointed Colonel Vasko Kokolanski as Commander of the Training and Doctrine Command within the General Staff of the Army of the Republic of North Macedonia.
Below is the integral text of the address of President Pendarovski.
Distinguished Members of the Army,
Veterans of Macedonian defense
It is my honour to greet you on this jubilee – 30 years since the establishment of the Macedonian Army.
On August 18, 1943, fighters from several partizan units decided to join forces and create the Mirche Acev battalion, the first regular military unit of the Macedonian national liberation army which, fighting as part of the anti-fascist coalition, established the Macedonian state.
Just as in the Second World War, the army created the state, in 1992, the Macedonian independent state created its own Army. August 18 is a symbol of historical continuity, because you, the members of the Army, are the heirs of the glorious anti-fascist generation whose aim was a free country in a world liberated from fascism.
Established in an exceptionally complex geopolitical and security setting, at the end of the Cold War and in the throes of the bloody disintegration of Yugoslavia, the Army shared all challenges of the then young Macedonian state. The start was modest, with scarce military reserves, but with trained and dedicated patriots, seniors and soldiers who filled Macedonian army barracks since day one. On this occasion, on this great jubilee, I particularly wish to greet the first recruit in the Macedonian army – Panche Jamandiev from Veles.
Throughout the years, the Army experienced accelerated modernization, following the latest standards and trends in terms of defense. Investments have been made in education of staff, above all at the General Mihajlo Apostolski Military Academy, but also in various military education institutions in NATO member countries. Significant experience has been acquired through active participation in NATO, EU and UN – led peacekeeping missions, as well as those of our strategic partners.
Yet, on this day, we should remind ourselves not only of the establishment and development of the Army, but of its raison d’etre, which is the right of every country to self-defense. The Army defends our sovereignty, territorial integrity and constitutional system, but also our national dignity and honour. In this context, the Army was engaged in tackling the key challenges for the country, beginning with the Kosovo crisis in 1999, through the military conflict in 2001, up until the migration crisis in 2015. The Army draws its strength and identity from the people, from the citizens. That being said, there is no stronger tie than the one between a soldier and his country.
Apart from its traditional tasks, the Army has always given support to the relevant institutions in terms of handling natural hazards and disasters, fires and floods, landslides and industrial accidents, and most recently, the critical period of the COVID-19 pandemic. Without any doubt, thanks to the Army, many lives were saved and far worse material damages were prevented.
The Army was also the driving force behind our NATO membership. Since the very beginning, the state designed Macedonian defense with a clear aim and intention to one day see it fully integrated in the Euro-Atlantic security system. Since then, we went through several periods of unprincipled external blockades and missed internal priorities which stalled our way towards the collective security systems. However, the Army continued undergoing reforms and thus helped us not to step back from the realization of our strategic goal. Therefore, we can rightfully say that as a country, we have achieved our biggest success in foreign policy, to a large extent thanks to the Army and its brave women and men in uniform. The Army remains our biggest investment in collective defense. Today, our soldiers actively contribute to peace and security in the world as part of peacekeeping missions in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Lebanon, Central African Republic, Kosovo, and the NATO mission in Latvia.
Throughout the years, the Army transformed into a cohesive force of Macedonian society. In it, all our ethnic, religious and linguistic differences are united in loyalty to our common homeland. An important part of the transformation of the Army was, and will continue to be, the increased inclusion of members of non-majority ethnic communities and women in all army structures and at all levels, including the special units. The top criteria for recruitment and advancement will continue to be professional qualities, dedication to the military call and personal integrity.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The three decades long success of the Army is an effort of generations of soldiers, officers and decision makers who painstakingly contributed to the same goal – building modern defense in service to the homeland. And for their contribution in the past 30 years, many individuals, participants in peacekeeping missions and formation units were rightfully awarded decorations for their individual and collective merits. Today, as Supreme Commander, I have the honor to award decorations to the first Minister of Defense, Professor Trajan Gocevski, the Logistical Base of the Army and the Organization of Reserve Officers of the Republic of North Macedonia, presenting them with Medals for military merits. With that, on behalf of the Macedonian citizens, we thank them for their priceless role in the building of our Army.
In these past few years, along with Europe and the world, we have been going through a whole series of turbulent events and processes. Together with our allies, we are facing an instability produced by the war in Ukraine, geopolitical tensions in various parts of the world, economic and energy shocks, limitations of human freedoms and violation of the rule of law, both known as the highest democratic values.
Since day one, we condemned the illegal agression of Russia against Ukraine and we demonstrated solidarity with the Ukrainian people. This solidarity is not only declarative, but very visible, proven by the assistance, including military assistance that we have provided, as a NATO member and within our possibilities to Ukraine. In this new geopolitical context, we gave our support to the strategic decision to expand the Alliance, by becoming one of the first countries to ratify in our Parliament the agreements for accession of Finland and Sweden in NATO.
The tragic Ukrainian experience shows that besides traditional threats, we see more and more of the new, assymetrical and hybrid threats that we must not ignore. Here belong also the disinformation campaigns in the form of fake news, whose aim is to undermine the trust of citizens in institutions and destabilize democratic order.
In order to neutralize all these threats, we must continue investing in the area of defense and no later than 2024 reach the standard of allocating at least 2% of our GDP for this purpose. That is the prerequisite for further modernization of the army and implementation of reforms, which will in turn directly strengthen the entire Macedonian defense system.
Distinguished members of the Army,
In this year of celebration, when we celebrate the past and visualize the future, we are aware of the biggest burden that falls on the shoulders of the brave men and women in uniform. I am convinced that, same as before, you will continue to be responsible and reliable guardians of the country, a pillar of our multiethnic society and an investment in national and collective security and defense.
Long live Army Day!
Long live the Republic of North Macedonia!