BRUSSELS, Belgium (BulgarianMilitary.com) – The Balkan country of Macedonia is a step forward toward becoming the 30th member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization as key text was signed during a ceremony between the Republic of North Macedonia and NATO at the Alliance headquarters in Brussels, Belgium yesterday (6th February 2019), learned BulgarianMilitary.com
The “accession protocol” signing ceremony was led by NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg and Macedonian Foreign Minister Nikola Dimitrov.
Stoltenberg commented, “This is a historic occasion. We have waited for you to join our family for a long time,” and added that the ceremony marks the start of the ratification process.
The last country that joined NATO, Montenegro, had to wait about a year for its accession protocol to be formally endorsed by all members.
Now Greece is set to become the first to do so this week. Macedonia will then start calling itself North Macedonia and will join the Alliance under that name, which will happen probably later this year or in early 2020.
Stoltenberg said in that regard, “I’m confident that this process will proceed smoothly.”
Macedonian Foreign Minister Nikola Dimitrov commented that the ceremony “is the result of the work of many generations,” and expressed his gratitude to the Macedonian and Greek prime ministers for overcoming the name dispute.
By quoting the British military officer and writer T.E. Lawrence, known as Lawrence of Arabia, Dimitrov added, “Nothing is written until we write it. We can change our destiny, we can seize opportunities and I think this is what we have done.”
For a decade the NATO membership of Macedonia was blocked by Greece due to the dispute regarding the name of the country. The name of the former Yugoslav republic was seen by Greece as a threat to its own administrative region of Macedonia.
The membership move happens 18 years after NATO deployed troops in Macedonia to collect weapons held by ethnic Albanian rebels so that a civil war there to be avoided.
Macedonia’s ruling Social Democrats commented in a statement, “After years of isolation, regression and uncertainty, Macedonia sits at the same table with the states of the democratic world,” and called the move a “historic act” and “historic success.”
The Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev said that his government will now focus on the economy, rule of law, better health and education and higher wages.
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