Sekerinska – Stoltenberg: Macedonia’s place is in NATO

Macedonia has shown that it has capacity to implement reforms in the spirit of NATO values, focus on democratic processes, defence reforms, promote good neighbourly relations and become a factor of stability in the region. With the consistent implementation of the reforms, Macedonia’s place is in NATO, Defence Minister Radmila Sekerinska and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said at Thursday’s meeting.

Sekerinska at the meeting underlined that unequivocal consensus among the citizens and the on the political scene exists in Macedonia that the country should become full-fledged member in NATO and the European Union, Defence Ministry said in press release.

Sekerinska informed Stoltenberg about the increase of defence budget and the decision on increase of Macedonian contingent within the NATO-led mission in Afghanistan. She thanked for the positive NATO response to Macedonia’s inclusion in NATO’s Defence Education Enhancement Program (DEEP).

Fulfilling our strategic goal Macedonia to become 30th NATO member is of great importance, not only for our country, but also for peace and stability in the Balkans. Macedonia’s membership in NATO is a goal which unites all citizens and around which political consensus exists. We need encouragement and support in order to be able to send the message that the goal is accomplishable, Sekerinska said.

Sekerinska said that the government and Defence Ministry achieved a strong breakthrough in the implementation of the reforms and that the future will continue at the same pace.

“We have fulfilled our promise and increased our participation in the Resolute Support Mission by 20 percent. We fulfilled promise we had made and it is the same way we work on defence reforms,” Sekerinska said.

Stoltenberg thanked for long-term contribution of the Army of the Republic of Macedonia (ARM) in NATO-led missions in Afghanistan and welcomed 20% increase of ARM troops in Resolute Support Mission.

He expressed satisfaction with the commitment of the government and Defence Ministry to the reforms and development of good neighbourly relations, adding that Macedonia has full support in the implementation of these reforms.

Stoltenberg also underlined that he supports Macedonia’s efforts to become a NATO member and has reasons to be optimistic, without losing reality, because he thinks that there are more challenges.

“I appreciate your contribution in peacekeeping missions. Your participation there is a bonus which gives you the argument that you are serious candidate for NATO membership. Also increase of defence budget is a move that contributes in NATO’s assessment that you are qualified to become member of the Alliance,” Stoltenberg said.

Stoltenberg congratulated Sekerinska on her personal leadership, the commitment and the way in which she represents the country in persuading the allies on importance of Macedonia’s membership to NATO.

This is the first NATO Secretary General’s visit to the Defence Ministry after more than a decade, reads the press release.