Shekerinska – Stoltenberg: Macedonia’s place is in NATO

Macedonia has demonstrated that it has the capacity to conduct reforms in the spirit of NATO’s values, focus on the democratic processes and defence reforms, promote good neighborly relations and become a factor of stability in the region. With the consistent implementation of the reforms, Macedonia’s place is in NATO – said Minister Shekerinska and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at today’s meeting.

At the meeting, Minister Shekerinska underlined the unequivocal consensus among the citizens and the political scene regarding Macedonia’s full-fledged member to NATO and the European Union. The Minister informed the NATO Secretary General of the increased defence budget, and the decision to augment Macedonia’s contingent in the mission in Afghanistan. Shekerinska expressed appreciation for NATO’s positive response regarding Macedonia’s involvement in the NATO Defence Education Enhancement Programme (DEEP).

“Fulfilling our strategic goal, Macedonia as the 30th NATO member, is of great importance, not only for our country, but for peace and stability in the Balkans. Macedonia’s membership in NATO is a goal that unites all citizens and around which there is political consensus. We need encouragement and support so that we can send the message that this goal is viable”, said the Minister.

Shekerinska said that the Government and the Ministry have made a strong breakthrough in the implementation of the reforms and that they will continue at the same pace in the future .

“We have fulfilled our promise and increased our presence in Mission Resolute Support by 20 percent. When we give our word, we keep it, this is also the case with the defence reforms”, said the Minister.

NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg expressed his appreciation for the long-term contribution of the Army of the Republic of Macedonia to the NATO missions in Afghanistan and welcomed the 20% increase of the ARM forces in Mission Resolute Support. He expressed satisfaction with the commitment of the Government and the Ministry to the reforms and development of good neighborly relations, and added that Macedonia has full support in the implementation of these reforms.

He said that he supports Macedonia’s efforts for becoming a NATO member and that there are reasons to be optimistic without losing realism, because there are still challenges ahead.

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

Stoltenberg congratulated Minister Shekerinska on her personal leadership, commitment and manner in which she represents the country when it comes to persuading allies in the importance of Macedonia’s membership to NATO.

The meeting of Shekerinska and Stoltenberg held in the Ministry of Defence is the first visit of a NATO Secretary General to the Ministry in more than a decade.