Optimism sometimes knows how to breathe out slowly, one step at a time. So is the projection from the beginning of the year that after the ratification of the Prespa Agreement, NATO membership is certain at the Alliance’s Summit in December. That optimism may have been fueled by the extra-quick ratification of the Accession Protocol in several countries, the fact that no country has remarks on Macedonian political and military performance and that this membership is basically a correction of a major injustice from Bucharest 2008.
Minister of Defense Radmila Shekerinska, from meeting to meeting, from forum to forum, repeats what we all know – that membership is well-deserved, but it still needs to pass the technical procedure. But the procedure may at some point turn into politics. Macedonia is not the only one political problems, there are even bigger problems in some of the NATO member states. It is precisely these problems that can delay Macedonia’s NATO membership indefinitely next year, and the London summit in December could end with unfinished business.
So far, the Protocol has not been ratified in Italy, Great Britain, the United States, Spain and Iceland, in the Netherlands the procedure has been completed in the House of Commons and is due to pass in the Senate. In the United States, the ratification has passed the Committee on Foreign Relations, which still needs to be adopted by the entire Senate. Which means that basically this thing is almost done. It is a complete mystery that ratification is taking place in Iceland, and according to some information, the process has not even begun.
Macedonian politicians are often known for their failures to blame “greater” forces in some other major countries. In the case of the ratification of the NATO Protocol, this is largely true, only on the condition that they accept their own amnesty for the failed name negotiations in the last fifteen years.
The situation in Britain and Spain is not really good for our NATO membership. Although in Britain the whole procedure is simpler than in other countries and there ratification depends mainly on the government, it still has to go through parliament in 20 working days. Fifteen of them went before the summer break, but the chaos with Boris Johnson’s appointment as prime minister and the confusion over what kind of Brexit they would go for, threw the continuation of the procedure into uncertainty. This whole mess could end in snap elections.
The situation is similar in Spain. After the April election that did not declare a clear winner, Socialist Pedro Sánchez remained prime minister, but after two failed attempts to be confirmed by parliament, the final phase of forming a government with populist leftists from Podemos is now under way. Their leader, Pablo Iglesias, wants them to be part of a coalition government, Sánchez rejects that option and only seeks Podemos support in parliament, and in turn has greater understanding of some demands by far-left parties. With Italy’s political crisis almost over with the expulsion of Matteo Salvini from the government and the agreement of new coalition partners, only Spain remains the biggest “obstacle” to December’s NATO dream.
“There is no reason for us to be enemies,” Sanchez tries to make amends, and Iglesias responds: “Politics cannot be based on trust but on guarantees, and the coalition government is the only guarantee”. In a way, this means that the December confirmation of NATO membership largely depends on Pablo Iglesias’s party interests. In the search for guarantees, the most likely outcome will be new snap elections in November. That means there will be nothing from December. That means there is nothing in the government’s plans for a triumphant entry into the election year. That would mean that if things could not change due to the political crises in several countries then some things in Macedonia could be given acceleration before the European Union’s decision in October on the date for start of accession negotiations. There is still some time left, but if we believe that some NATO members can complete ratification in a short time, so should we perceive things for ourselves – that by October 15th we can finish what is necessary for getting the accession talks date.
Of course, Radmila Shekerinska and Nikola Dimitrov shouldn’t stop explaining our deserved NATO membership, but that is no longer at the top of the diplomatic agenda. Now the main task is to convince our European friends that the date is not an undeserved reward. Only the parties first understand that the guarantees for Macedonia’s European future depend to a large extent on them and the renunciation of at least part of their incredible selfishness.