Macedonia and the Membership Action Plan (MAP)
The Membership Action Plan (MAP) was launched in April 1999 to assist those countries which wish to join the Alliance in their preparations by providing advice, assistance and practical support on all aspects of NATO membership. Its main features are:
- the submission by aspiring members of individual annual national programs on their preparations for possible future membership, covering political, economic, defence, resource, security and legal aspects;
- a focused and candid feedback mechanism on aspirant countries’ progress on their programs that includes both political and technical advice, as well as annual 19+1 meetings at Council level to assess progress;
- a clearing-house to help coordinate assistance by NATO and by member states to aspirant countries in the defence/military field;
- a defence planning approach for aspirants which includes elaboration and review of agreed planning targets.
NATO Heads of State and Government will launch the next round of NATO enlargement when they review the process at their Summit meeting in Prague in November 2002.
The Membership Action Plan (MAP) has helped the countries aspiring to NATO membership to increasingly focus their preparations on meeting the goals and priorities set out in the Plan. Moreover, its implementation has ceased to be a matter concerning only ministries of foreign affairs and defence. With the establishment of inter-ministerial meetings at the national level, fulfilling the objectives of the Plan is increasingly engaging other government departments in a coordinated and systematic effort.
The nine NATO aspirants that are participating in the MAP are Albania, Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, and the Republic of Macedonia. Croatia is expected to present its first annual national program in autumn 2003. After the Prague Summit, the MAP will continue to serve both aspirants and those countries invited to begin accession talks with the Alliance.
The MAP gives substance to NATO’s commitment to keep its door open. However, participation in the MAP does not guarantee future membership, nor does the Plan consist simply of a checklist for aspiring countries to fulfil. Decisions to invite aspirants to start accession talks will be taken within NATO by consensus and on a case-by-case basis.
The MAP provides for concrete feedback and advice from NATO to aspiring countries on their own preparations directed at achieving future membership. It provides for a range of activities designed to strengthen each aspirant country’s candidacy. The MAP does not replace the Partnership for Peace (PfP) program. The aspirants’ participation in PfP and its Planning and Review Process (PARP) has been tailored to their needs. Full participation in PfP/PARP is essential because it allows aspirant countries to develop interoperability with NATO forces and to prepare their force structures and capabilities for possible future membership.
Like PfP, the MAP is guided by the principle of self-differentiation: aspirant countries are free to choose the elements of the MAP best suited to their own national priorities and circumstances. All aspirants have submitted an Annual National Program on preparations for possible membership, covering political and economic, defence/military, resource, security and legal issues. They set their own objectives, targets and work schedules. These programs are expected to be updated each year by aspirant countries.
NATO is following the progress made by each aspirant and providing advice. Meetings of the North Atlantic Council with each of the aspirants are taking place to discuss progress. Throughout the year, meetings and workshops with NATO civilian and military experts in various fields allow for discussion of the entire spectrum of issues relevant to membership. An annual consolidated progress report on activities under the MAP is presented to NATO foreign and defence ministers at their regular spring meetings each year.
Aspirant countries are expected to achieve certain goals in the political and economic fields. These include settling any international, ethnic or external territorial disputes by peaceful means; demonstrating a commitment to the rule of law and human rights; establishing democratic control of their armed forces; and promoting stability and well-being through economic liberty, social justice and environmental responsibility.
Defence and military issues focus on the ability of the country to contribute to collective defence and to the Alliance’s new missions. Full participation in PfP is an essential component. Through their individual PfP programs, aspirants can focus on essential membership related issues. Partnership Goals for aspirants include planning targets which are covering those areas which are most directly relevant for nations aspiring NATO membership.
Resource issues focus on the need for any aspirant country to commit sufficient resources to defence to allow them to meet the commitments that future membership would bring in terms of collective NATO undertakings.
Security issues centre on the need for aspirant countries to make sure that procedures are in place to ensure the security of sensitive information.
Legal aspects address the need for aspirants to ensure that legal arrangements and agreements which govern cooperation within NATO are compatible with domestic legislation.