The President of the Republic of North Macedonia and Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, Stevo Pendarovski, today in the “Ilinden” Barracks in Skopje, attended and addressed the ceremony of sending the first contingent of the Army of the Republic of North Macedonia to the NATO-led mission – KFOR in Kosovo.
Distinguished Soldiers and Officers of the Army of the Republic of North Macedonia,
Distinguished Prime Minister,
Distinguished Minister of Defense,
Distinguished Chief of General Staff,
Let me first address the members of the mission for whom we are today gathered here at this ceremony.
Dear Soldiers and Officers,
I am glad to have the honor to greet you at the ceremony of your deployment as members of the Army of the Republic of North Macedonia in the NATO-led mission – KFOR in Kosovo.
You are part of our first rotation in this first mission in which we participate after receiving the status of a full member of the North Atlantic Alliance and that makes us all especially proud. This participation in a NATO-led mission is a clear indication of our intention to be an active and committed member of the Alliance and of our intention to contribute to strengthening peace and stability in the region and beyond.
Even 20 years ago, when we became a candidate country, we knew that membership in the most powerful military alliance is a huge advantage for our security and safety, but it also brings obligations and responsibilities.
Even before we became a member of NATO, our army in all previous missions in which it participated, showed that it can meet even the most complex requirements and perform all assigned tasks.
There is not a single one of my meetings in all these years with senior NATO officials, both civilians and generals, at which they did not speak with special respect for the quality of the Macedonian contingents in Afghanistan, where we safeguarded the headquarters of the mission in Kabul and for our participation in combat missions from which many of our soldiers returned with the highest foreign decorations for their bravery.
Although we have been a member of NATO since March this year, our rating in the Alliance is high, and the credit goes to you, above all, respected soldiers and officers, because you continuously show top professionalism and full commitment to this noble profession.
Therefore, today I have not the slightest doubt that in the future mission, you, the members of the Army, will maintain the highest standards and represent your homeland with dignity.
The KFOR mission started 21 years ago in response to the huge military and humanitarian crisis, and that mission brought peace and security to the citizens of Kosovo, but also stabilization of our entire region. Our future presence in Kosovo with 44 soldiers, which will be our largest participation at the moment compared to the other contingents in Afghanistan, Lebanon and Bosnia and Herzegovina, speaks of the importance we attach to this mission.
The Republic of North Macedonia has become an example of how, with a clear political will and strategic vision for the future of the country and the people, one can step forward and transform from a country that needed external help and assistance into a country that is a factor of stability in the region and a respected ally in the strongest political-military alliance in world history.
On this occasion, I would like to emphasize that this is the merit of all previous political parties that had no dilemma about the direction in which the country should move and constantly invested in equipping and modernizing the Army.
It is a merit of the soldiers and officers who have continuously invested in their training, but, above all, it is a result of the will of our citizens who in large numbers supported the strategic goal of becoming part of this military-political alliance.
Although time is short, the benefits of NATO membership are already visible in the solidarity shown during the pandemic, as well as in the common opposition to hybrid threats that are becoming more visible. Of course, no one has illusions that NATO membership will solve all our problems, but, without a doubt, it is a key assumption for further development and prosperity of the country.
In the coming period, you will represent the honor, professionalism and morale of all members of our Army. I am convinced that you will perform all tasks responsibly and successfully and that you will not embarrass us as a state and as a people.
Your mission has added value, because you go to a country that is our neighbor and friend; we have deep historical, cultural and economic ties. I believe that the presence of the Macedonian contingent in Kosovo will further deepen those relations.
At the very end, let me wish you all good health and successful performance of work responsibilities and tasks.
Let me tell you one more thing: next year, I will come to visit you where you will be deployed.
Good luck and goodbye!