Pendarovski: Official announcement for NATO invitation expected tomorrow

Tomorrow, we are waiting for an official announcement from the NATO headquarters in Brussels to be announced that Macedonia will be presented with an official membership invitation at the upcoming summit of the Alliance on July 11-12, said Stevo Pendarovski, the country’s National NATO Coordinator.

“NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg will make the announcement the Macedonian citizens have been waiting for years. It will be the closing stage of our association in the Alliance bearing in mind that Macedonia is an infamous record-holder of sorts, with 19 cycles of the NATO membership action plan,” Pendarovski said at the 98th Rose-Roth Seminar taking place in Skopje.

In the meantime, he noted, Macedonia has demonstrated a high level of resilience given the fact that it had found itself on the brink twice.

“The first time it was in 2001, when we were in the midst of an internal conflict, but only four years later, in 2005, we were granted with a status of a candidate country for the EU. The second time we retreated from the brink was in 2017. After toppling the hard-line authoritative regime of 11 years, it took us only a year to get a membership invitation for the Alliance. Now, one year after the storming of Parliament, we are discussing how Macedonia is becoming a member of NATO and that it got a date to start negotiations with the EU next year,” elaborated Pendarovski.

According to him, last year Macedonia closed three major strategic issues – firstly, the signing of the friendship treaty with Bulgaria, considered a stumbling block on the path to the EU. In terms of internal affairs, Parliament adopted the law on languages – a pillar of the Ohrid Framework Agreement, and lastly, the signing of the name agreement with Greece.

NATO membership, Pendarovski said, is the strongest cohesive factor in the country, namely nearly 80% of the citizens are in favor of joining the Alliance.

Referring to the benefits of being part of NATO, he said that even though Macedonia faced no threat to its territorial integrity, the world was faced with other kinds of threat, such as hybrid wars, cyber attacks and the effect of fake news.

“We are addressing major issues with religious terrorism with the focus being on wars in the Middle East, especially Syria. Our citizens there have gone there to fight. Cooperation in this sphere within NATO is urgent,” stated Pendarovski.

On Thursday, the seminar offers sessions dedicated to the aspiring countries in the Western Balkans to join NATO, reforms in the defense and security sector and next steps in the EU-integration process.

The seminar is organized by the NATO Parliamentary Assembly in cooperation with the Macedonian Parliament and is titled “Euro-Atlantic Integration of the Western Balkans: Reinforcing the European Peace Project.”