Defense Minister Radmila Sekerinska denies that there are military intelligence officers in her cabinet, as well as in the General Staff, who cooperate with intelligence services from non-NATO countries, of which there was an alleged warning from Brussels. In a statement for Nezavisen Vesnik/Independent daily newspaper, the defense minister explained that after receiving the membership pass for NATO, we ourselves have asked the international partners to help us in carrying out the vetting procedure on the employees.
“Neither has NATO sent us a vetting team, nor did they announce it, either in written or verbally has someone asked us to dismiss or change military officials who allegedly cooperated with foreign services, primarily with the Serbian services,” Defense Minister Sekerinska said.
Following her reaction, VMRO-DPMNE Vice-President Aleksandar Nikoloski said that NATO directions to the army have been received, warning that there are people in exceptionally high positions in the Sekerinska cabinet and the foreign staff, who are collaborators of foreign services.
“We are talking about countries that are not part of NATO and therefore the Alliance is keeping internal information out of reach for these countries. These officials must be removed, retired or deployed in lower positions so that Macedonia can be a credible partner,” said Nikoloski.
The opposition alludes above all to Goran Vasilevski, who took over the military intelligence after the change of power. He was stripped of his security certificate in 2012, after which he complained to a second instance commission, but received a negative response. He filed a lawsuit to the Administrative Court, but lost the case in 2013. In 2017, he was appointed Chief of Military Intelligence and regained his Security Certificate.
“In the past few months, Vasilevski had meetings with representatives of several services, from the United States through the Czech Republic, up to Germany. If the NATO partners thought that he was collaborating with Serbian services, a country that is not part of the military alliance, would you exchange information with him?” Sekerinska explained for Nezavisen Vesnik/Independent daily newspaper.
The alleged reactions from the NATO team arrived in Skopje last month, and therefore, NATO Assistant Secretary General for Intelligence and Security Arndt Loringhofer arrived to the country. He had a meeting with Defense Minister Sekerinska, Prime Minister Zoran Zaev, and with the leadership of VMRO-DPMNE.
At his meeting with Zaev, according to the government press service, Loringhofer expressed his support in the direction of the reforms and legal legislation that is brought in the part of the professionalization and efficiency of the security services. In fact, support was provided for the law on separation of UBK from the Ministry of the Interior, which is still in process, but expressed concern that the formation of a coordinative body is planned under the auspices of the prime minister, which is why he fears that too much power will yet again end up in the hands of one man.
As for NATO, they are especially cautious when they accept countries from the former communist bloc in their ranks, fearing that in institutions that are on the first line of cooperation there are opponents of joining the Alliance, so they keep their confidential information safe.
As Nezavisen Vesnik/Independent daily newspaper reported in December of last year, NATO urged the government to re-examine and issue all security permits in the country so that, after accepting Macedonia as a full-fledged member state, it can be sure that internal information from member states and the Alliance will not be leaked or abused. The reform of the intelligence and security services was one of the three key requirements of the Alliance in the negotiations with Macedonia after the implementation of the Prespa Agreement and the defense reforms. The discovery that the Security and Intelligence Directorate was involved in the preparation of April 27, ie the coup attempt and that a representative of the president’s office with a security clearance took part, made these requirements even more important for NATO.
“We must be sure that everyone involved in some way in the information sharing system with NATO has the appropriate security clearance. That was not the case in the past. This applies to persons from the Ministries of Interior and Defense, the relevant committees in the parliament, but mostly to the UBK and other intelligence services. We see the readiness of the government to do so,” stated a NATO official for Nezavisen Vesnik/Independent daily newspaper, adding that it was a process that would take place gradually and could go on even after Macedonia’s accession to the Alliance.