Shekerinska – Scaparrotti: Macedonia is a reliable partner and a future NATO ally

Supreme Allied Commander Europe and Commander of US EUCOM, General Curtis Scaparrotti, came today in an official visit to the Republic of Macedonia. As part of the visit, General Scaparrotti met with a delegation from the Ministry of Defense and the General Staff of the ARM, headed by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense Radmila Shekerinska.

During their talks, both sides expressed satisfaction with the mutual cooperation and underlined their belief that after the invitation for membership and the successful completion of the accession talks, Macedonia will become a full fledged member of NATO. Macedonia’s NATO membership will strengthen the security in the region, accelerate the further development of the country and bring a new partner to the Alliance in the fight for preservation of global peace and development. These conclusions were derived from the meeting.

Shekerinska briefed General Scaparrotti on the undertaken reforms and the efforts to accelerate Macedonia’s Euro-Atlantic integration. In this context, the Minister underscored that after receiving the invitation from NATO and the Agreement reached with Greece, our first priority remains the full implementation and completion of the full membership procedure. “The majority of citizens are aware of this historic opportunity and that it should not be missed,” Minister Shekerinska said.

The Defense Minister and her high ranking guest discussed the defense reform plans and the modernization of the army in accordance with the guidelines of the recently adopted Strategic Defense Review, as well as the possibilities for expanding the technical cooperation in order to enhance the ARM capacities in function of our future full-fledged membership and further participation in peacekeeping missions.

Shekerinska stressed that the Republic of Macedonia has made great progress in the development of the armed forces while providing support to NATO in its efforts to establish peace and democracy in the world. “As a future NATO member, we increased the Macedonian contingent in the” Resolute Support” mission by twenty percent as of the beginning of this year, and by the end of the year we are sending support for the elections in Afghanistan, but also an additional increase in our troops. I am exceptionally pleased that a part of the Macedonian contingent is entrusted with an extremely responsible task – force protection at RS HQ in Kabul” the Minister said.

General Scaparrotti underlined that he values the efforts of the Minister and the Government in the field of defense cooperation, as well as our participation in international missions, stressing that NATO and the US remain strong supporters of our country. “We are ready to help you become the 30th member of NATO“, Scaparrotti stated.

Part of the program was a visit to the “Ilinden” barracks where demonstration exercises were performed by the members of the Special Operations Regiment for the high level official. Following the meeting and the demonstration of the army capacities, Defense Minister Shekerinska said in a press statement that today’s visit and cooperation show how much things have changed in Macedonia after 11 July, when Macedonia received the invitation to start its accession talks with NATO.

“Just two weeks after receiving NATO invitation, on 26 July, a team of the Alliance visited Macedonia in order to determine the guidelines for membership accession talks. Five days later, on 1 August, the North Atlantic Council in Brussels formally adopted the plan for conducting accession talks with Macedonia” Minister Shekerinska said.

General Scaparrotti praised the demonstrated military skills, which, he added, obviously follow NATO standards and procedures and he underscored that the Alliance highly values everything that Macedonia is doing in Afghanistan. The General pointed out that the long partnership with NATO has contributed to the significant progress in defense related reforms and military interoperability with Allies and offered practical support to the military authorities in the accession process.

“NATO shares you commitment to democracy, rule of law as well as security and stability in the region. Your continued support is important not just for the Western Balkans, but for the whole of Europe“, Scaparrotti stated.