Fourteen years ago, with the help of our American friends, we jointly started the journey that meant integration into NATO and that process is still ongoing, the Minister of Defence said in front of the Heads of delegations of the United States, Albania, Croatia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Slovenia, Serbia, Kosovo and NATO.
“Despite all the challenges, we can say that the Initiative is successful, but it is not completed. Our friends, Albania and Croatia, received the official invitation for NATO membership in 2008 and are full members of the Alliance”, the Minister said. She added that the same year Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro joined the US – Adriatic Charter, and Montenegro has only recently become part of NATO.
The Minister addressed the strategic goal of the country – NATO membership, which she said was a key priority, and a guarantee for regional security, stability and development. “To accomplish this goal, we must all work together and devotedly. I want to emphasize that we do not request this membership to be given as a gift, nor as a gained right, but as a result of commitment, fulfilled criteria and secured domestic and political stability”, Shekerinska said and added that Macedonia will show results and will prove that it deserves to become the 30th NATO member state.
Prime Minister Zoran Zaev stressed that the Adriatic Charter was the reason for achieving the standards and criteria for membership in the Alliance. He added that after the act of not receiving an invitation for membership, Macedonia was embroiled in retrograde political processes that culminated in the country’s most difficult political crisis thus far, but with the help of democratic forces and free-minded citizens, Macedonia rose above the crisis and continued to believe that the Euro-Atlantic integrations and regional cooperation are necessary for long-term stability of the region and the entire continent.
“Today the Republic of Macedonia is stepping forward in a stable and energetic manner. We are strongly committed to domestic reforms that promote and strengthen our democracy in order to comply with the political criteria for NATO membership. We have increased the defence budget and have decisive political will for it to increase by 0.2% of GDP every year. We have also decided to increase our participation in the peacekeeping missions”, the Prime Minister said.
Laura Cooper, US Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense, pointed out that the A5 is a unique opportunity for deepening the cooperation between the allies and partners in the region and that it plays a leading role in bringing the Western Balkans closer in a union with Europe and NATO. She reminded of the visit of Vice President Pence to the Summit in Montenegro, which shows that the US-Adriatic Charter fulfils its purpose, bringing the countries from the Western Balkans closer to the NATO Alliance.
“Now Montenegro and the other regional allies, Albania, Croatia and Slovenia, can share their experience with the other A5 countries – aspirants for NATO membership, including our host Macedonia, as well as Bosnia and Herzegovina, who are on the road to Euro-Atlantic integration. I hope that we will use today’s discussion to develop our already strong bilateral and regional relations. Together with all the allies and participants on today’s Ministerial Meeting, our goal is to strengthen the security of the Western Balkans, to promote NATO integration and to contribute to the collective security of Europe”, Cooper said.
The Head of the NATO Liaison Office in Skopje, Navy Captain Gorazd Bartol, addressed the value of the US – Adriatic Charter, which, as he said, rests on the most important principles of the Alliance – solidarity and collective defence, and he also spoke about Macedonia’s commitment to its strategic goal – NATO membership.
“With the ambitious reform agenda of the Government and our excellent cooperation with Minister Shekerinska, as we call her “our Minister for NATO”, we believe that you are closer to the strategic priority of your country to become the 30th member state of the Alliance”, Bartol said.
The Ministerial continues with the plenary session of the Heads of delegations of the US – Adriatic Charter, and the countries guests and observers, after which the Joint Statement will be signed.