North Macedonia One Final Step from Becoming 30th NATO Member While Hoping for EU Talks
When North Macedonia finally joins, that will be the eighth enlargment of NATO.
The Republic of North Macedonia is just a single formal step away – ratification by Spain – from becoming the 30th member state of NATO, after the Macedonian Parliament ratified its membership agreement.
The small Balkan country’s soon-to-be-realized NATO accession has been in the making for a long time, and has become possible only after it resolved its decades-long “name dispute” with Greece in 2018 by accepting to rename itself from the “Republic of Macedonia” to the “Republic of North Macedonia” to put to rest fears in Athens over potential territorial claims based on the geographic and historical features of the region of Macedonia.
The 120-seat Parliament in North Macedonia’s capital Skopje formally adopted on Tuesday, February 11, 2020, the Law on Ratification of the North Atlantic Treaty, PlusInfo reports.
The law was approved unanimously by all 114 MPs present, without any abstentions or any votes against, in the presence of foreign diplomats and officials from some of the NATO countries.
It is going to come into force once Spain ratifies the NATO Accession Protocol of North Macedonia, the last remaining NATO member to do so, with expectations that the procedure could be completed in March 2020.
That would make the former Yugoslav country of North Macedonia the 30th member of the North Atlantic alliance in the first enlargement of NATO since Montenegro, another country from the former Yugoslavia / Western Balkans – joined back in June 2017.
The previous NATO enlargement before that was the accession of two other countries from the same region – Albania and Croatia – back in 2009, while the first “Western Balkan” – and former Yugoslav – country to join the North Atlantic pact was Slovenia, back in 2004, together with six other Eastern European countries.
“By joining this alliance, we are not simply joining an international organization,” Macedonian President Stevo Pendarovski told the lawmakers ahead of the vote on Tuesday, as cited by DW.
“Membership of the world’s most powerful military-political alliance is a privilege, but also a huge responsibility,” he added.
The vote was followed by a brief ceremony in which the NATO flag was raised in front of the parliament building in Skopje.
“Today we witnessed history in the making, by making our future far more certain and predictable. North Macedonia Parliament just ratified the North Atlantic Treaty. We won’t walk the path alone any more. We will have 29 NATO friends and allies beside us,” Macedonia’s Foreign Minister Nikola Dimitrov tweeted.
The Speaker of the Bulgarian Parliament, Tsveta Karayancheva, who led a Bulgarian delegation to the historic vote of the Skopje legislature, pointed out that North Macedonia’s neighbor Bulgaria was among the first member states of the Alliance to ratify its NATO Accession Protocol a year ago, shortly after it was drafted.
North Macedonia’s edging very close to finally joining the North Atlantic Alliance comes against the backdrop of its hopes – and the hopes of its neighbor Albania – of being invited to start talks for accession to the European Union.
The decision to start membership negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia was blocked in the fall of 2019 by French President Emmanuel Macron, and partly by Denmark and the Netherlands, to much international criticism.
There are hopes now that this might be reversed in the spring of 2020, with the European Commission announcing recently a new enlargement process proposal, which would see the start of EU membership talks with Albania and North Macedonia before the holding of a EU-Western Balkans Summit in Zagreb in May 2020 as part of the Croatian Presidency of the Council of the European Union.
(Banner image: N. Macedonian President on Twitter)