"At the end of the accession negotiations your MFA will have to send a letter confirming that the country wants to join the alliance and become a member. But it will be the only one that needs to send us two signatures - for the Prespa Agreement and for reception," a senior alliance representative told reporters. He also reiterated what NATO diplomats were saying these days from a ministerial meeting in Brussels - that member states have confidence in institutions investigating the responsibility of former officials in Macedonia, despite Nikola Gruevski's escape from the country.
"We have no reason to doubt the rule of law and that every suspected or accused will get a fair treatment," said the high representative of NATO, without mentioning Gruevski. According to him, the reforms with the rule of law in Macedonia go well and accountability in the judiciary is needed in order to restore people's trust in the justice system.
Foreign Minister Nikola Dimitrov, after meeting with NATO foreign ministers, said he was very encouraged by Macedonia's support, announcing that in February 2020 the country should become a member of the alliance.
"For us this is an unfinished thing. We have aspired to join NATO since 1993 and we should have joined in 2008. Ten years have gone by and we finally removed the name issue obstacle. This is important for Macedonia, for the region and for the Alliance,” said FM Dimitrov after Wednesday’s meetings at the NATO headquarters.
According to him, no member state representative has expressed a dilemma or remark about what is being done in the country and how the conditions are met, and the message was only that they did not wait as the 30th member.
"The message I have received from a number of capitals in recent weeks is one of trust in the rule of law in Macedonia. The Minister of Lithuania told me that we have been waiting for a long time, and that our membership has been worked out and earned. That we meet the criteria and there is no mistrust in the rule of law in the country," Dimitrov said in the context of the dilemma as Gruevski's escape and the new developments around the UBK are being received here in Brussels.
While NATO’s limelight was on Macedonia, another positive news came from the region. Alliance representatives announced that BiH will submit its first Membership Action Plan, which means it makes the first step towards seeking admission to the alliance. How long is the road to the end yet shows the fact that Macedonia has submitted such plans for 18 years and when it is accepted into NATO, the country will have to submit yet another so-called programme for continuing reforms.
As for Serbia, NATO has assessed that it is becoming a valuable partner, and that they do not intend to pressure the country to become a member, but that they have a problem with the way in which the Alliance perceives, and the misinformation spread over the way it acts and the policies it represents. NATO is also blocked from the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina because they do not participate in it, and at the same time they said they did not have an official position on territorial exchanges and border crossings as a way to resolve Serbia's dispute with Kosovo. As the NATO allies can solve this issue themselves, however, the general attitude of the alliance is that redrawing borders along ethnic lines does not contribute to peace and stability, that it is actually impossible to do because there will always be an ethnic group inside, and because it can only be part of solving the problem - and not the most important one.
"There is no silver bullet to solve the problem," said a senior NATO official, pointing out that economic problems and displacement are the real problem in the region, and while addressing ethnic borders, the real problems are not addressed. This must stop, he said, adding that there was no such magical border. He condemned the introduction of import taxes by Kosovo as a retaliation against Serbia.
The main focus of the NATO ministers was, however, the decision by the United States to give Russia an ultimatum to retire from a breach of a medium-range missile agreement, threatening that after that deadline the United States would withdraw from it.
"We do not want a new cold war, we do not want a new arms race, the United States fully adheres to the agreement, but the situation is untenable for the United States to honor the agreement, and Russia does not," Secretary-General Stoltenberg shifted the responsibility for whether or not there would be an agreement with Moscow. In NATO, when it comes to Russia, they are no longer using diplomatic gloves, so in the context of our region they said that wherever they could cause trouble, Moscow would take advantage of it.
Correspondent from Brussels for Nezavisen Vesnik