The President of the Republic of North Macedonia, Stevo Pendarovski, participated in the video conference “Global Risks and Threats: Challenges and Opportunities”, which, on the occasion of the NATO Day – April 4, was organized by the American Corner in Skopje in cooperation with the Faculty of Security.
In his address, President Pendarovski congratulated our country’s membership in the NATO Alliance, emphasizing that NATO membership guarantees security, borders and territorial integrity, which are preconditions for development.
“Greetings to all conference participants especially to the organizer. I have to tell you that I am a little surprised because I am participating for the first time in this type of conference, but I guess for you and all for those who participate in this conference this is the first time to have a kind of academic online conference with the participation of politicians.
The situation with the corona virus made us think differently and resort to the so-called digital conferencing.
To connect this last statement of mine with the topic of the conference, for the first time in its history NATO, a few days ago, exactly on April 2, made the first video conference with all foreign ministers of the member states and for them it was unusual; however, the situation requires this type of behavior, for the institutions to continue to function, albeit in slightly different circumstances.
At the onset I would like to congratulate, although slightly delayed due to the extraordinary circumstances, NATO Day – April 4, when the organization was formed and I want us all to congratulate our country’s membership in the Alliance.
We have finally become the thirtieth member state, we have been waiting for this since 1993, I would say, from the first declaration in the then Macedonian Parliament adopted by absolute consensus by all parliamentary groups for our membership in the Alliance and especially since 1999 when at the April Summit at that time in Washington we became a formal candidate for membership and entered a cycle called annual national membership plans. I have a special feeling of satisfaction given my previous jobs, I could probably say that for about twenty years I have been dealing with defense and security issues and I was previously a national coordinator for NATO and a national security adviser to two presidents and it all had a direct relation to our membership in this Alliance.
I have always thought that NATO is a precondition for development, so if you have guaranteed security, borders and territorial integrity it is clear that in any other area you can only progress because you already have the preconditions for that.
In my opinion, our membership in NATO is one of the three most important moments in our recent history, certainly one of the three most important moments from our independence until today. So if the first historic moment for our people, for all of us, for our country is 8 September 1991 when we gained independence, if the second is 8 April 1993 when we became members of the United Nations, this is certainly the third, according to its strategic weight and I think that when you analyze what happened in the first 30 years of our independence you simply cannot avoid this act of our membership in the Alliance.
What is NATO doing now in these circumstances which we know have changed dramatically globally, and in just a few sentences you will allow me to say how the Alliance is positioned at the moment to dismiss all those theses of skeptics who keep saying NATO is organization from some old times, from the time of the bipolar division of the world, from the Cold War, and that it has not adapted to the new circumstances, that is not true, here in relation to the latest corona virus pandemic we are facing now. The last thesis that has been said at the highest ministerial level, at NATO headquarters, is that NATO is doing everything at this moment, to prevent the health crisis to turn into a security crisis.
So, for that purpose, all the recommendations of the World Health Organization, an organization such as NATO strictly implements, follows, although it is primarily a military-political organization. At NATO Headquarters, the new NATO Headquarters opened last year, the staff working there has been drastically reduced, all the trips of the people working there have been reduced, and there are thousands of employees, except for those directly related to military missions, the measures have been greatly strengthened in line with WHO recommendations for the protection of NATO-led troops in international missions. For example, the group visits to the Alliance that were part of the program of bringing the Alliance closer to ordinary people have been canceled, so there is no such thing, as it is the case in our institutions with the so-called open days in our Parliament or in the Cabinet of the President.
What exactly is NATO doing in recent weeks or days? There was a regular meeting of the foreign ministers a few days ago, but an extraordinary meeting of all the defense ministers of the member states is scheduled for this month, in April, because it is obviously necessary to monitor daily what is happening with the pandemic and from that aspect of how NATO will adapt and how NATO will oppose the joint efforts made by different countries and different institutions in all those countries. According to the latest conclusions of the last NATO Council of Ministers, NATO supports its member states in three directions. First, it provides complete logistical and transport support for the transport of medical equipment, which is necessary in the member states. For that purpose, NATO’s largest cargo planes C-17 are at disposal, at the moment three of them, which are constantly flying to member countries. The last major shipment was from Romania to Italy, transporting certain medical equipment missing to the Alliance’s hardest hit country besides Spain. It also provides complete logistics between member states in terms of the need for medical staff from one member state to another.
What is interesting – NATO participates with its innovative technologies. There is a strong branch within the Alliance that deals with new technologies. For example, NATO has considerable experience in 3D printing.
This is the last thing that is interesting for those who follow this conference and our entire public to know – the production through 3D medical printers of protective medical masks, which have a special ventilation system, in Italy, started a few days ago. So what NATO has so far had as an expertise in that area, as a scientific achievement, is given to the use of that member state, where it is necessary and through a specific local initiative of public-private partnership, means the Alliance with a local company, is already making it through 3D technology. It is at this moment a great support for Italy, which faces, among other things, a shortcoming in this segment. What our Macedonian public should know is that in the past few years, long before the pandemic happened and long before we became a member state, NATO has already trained over 500 people in our country, that is, employed here in our institutions, to work in such conditions, they are now all engaged in that capacity to work and cope with emergencies, including infectious diseases. One of the institutions that directly benefits from becoming a NATO member and is part of that common NATO information system is the Crisis Management Center which is part of the NATO program called “Next Generation Incident System” which serves for better exchange of information and better cooperation between the institutions, but, I am talking about the exchange of information on the territory of our country and about better coordination between our, domestic, local institutions. NATO maps this, gives us technological support from the background in that area, because we do not have such capacity and we understand much faster what is happening within our country and where more help or greater presence of certain personnel is needed.
We did not have that before, that is, we worked and we were left alone, now we have a whole Alliance with 29 member states that do so.
Not to take much of your time since in emergency circumstances one should not talk too long, I would like to mention another thesis and elaborate it briefly, as much as time allows, which is important within this pandemic and is important here – our cooperation with NATO, i.e. already as a member state – the campaigns against misinformation of the public. You have heard of hybrid threats, we all have, which in the past few years are present in different form and with different intensity in our country, but now we have again a kind of hybrid war between stakeholders, between entities and international organizations, etc. Among the others that are a kind of collateral damage in this sense is our country and in that part we receive extremely important, not logistical, but IT support from NATO in the part of channeling the truth to the end users. By doing so, we deny the fake news whose main purpose is to undermine the trust of the citizens in our institutions, as well as the faith, in general, in the system of democracy as the best political system where all other member states of the Alliance are located, so NATO helps us here, it has helped us before, but now it helps us much more with the exchange of information, with the exchange of true information and that is one of the direct benefits we have now as a full member of the Alliance.
I want to greet you once again at the end and wish all of us to celebrate NATO Day next year in normal circumstances, face to face, directly in a live physical contact, and not like this on distance, because still those traditional conferences are much dearer to me, as a person of the older generation.
Greetings to all of you!”