North Macedonia’s president Stevo Pendarovski has signed the final accession document for the country’s accession into NATO. The president was able to sign the document after Spain became the last member to ratify North Macedonia’s membership on March 17th. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said that former accession will take place “soon”, making North Macedonia the 30th member of the alliance.
Greece and North Macedonia
The North Macedonian accession to NATO was held up for a long time due to the country’s long standing dispute with neighboring Greece. For North Macedonia joining NATO as well as the European Union has been a priority but progress was stalled for more than two decades because of the dispute between Greece and North Macedonia over the country’s name. North Macedonia was previously known as just Macedonia, a name it shared with a Greek province. In 2017 then Macedonia made a deal with Greece to change its name to North Macedonia prompting Greece to drop its objection to NATO accession and potential EU membership. Greece became the first country to ratify North Macedonia’s accession to NATO.
North Macedonia and EU membership
A vote among European Union members on March 23rd regarding North Macedonia’s membership to the EU resulted in a unanimous decision. All 27 members votes in favor of North Macedonia (as well as Albania) joining the union and membership talks are set to begin soon. The Party of European Socialists (PES) welcomes the decision to start accession talks with North Macedonia and Albania as well. President of the party, Sergei Stanishev, stated that “this [accession talks] is a matter of justice and credibility. Albania and North Macedonia have undertaken tough and necessary reforms and have shown us their commitment to the European rules and ideals. The time has come for the EU to meet its own commitments. This is the right thing to do.” He went on to say that “this decision sends a very positive signal to the Western Balkans: the door of the EU is open to those who want to modernize their countries in line with the principles of democracy and the values of the EU. We know that the EU has the power to produce positive change in its immediate neighborhood. Let’s use it. I commend Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama and North Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev on their leadership.”
Previously France and the Netherlands voiced objections to the membership of both North Macedonia and Albania due to their bad track records regarding fighting corruption and democracy. France insisted the EU’s enlargement process should first be reformed. The European Commission proposed reforms on the 5th of February 2020 to include more say for EU governments over the process, ensuring that hopefuls meet targets in economic, judicial and other reforms, and the possibility to reset the process if those targets are not met. These reforms removed the last obstacle for North Macedonia and Albania to start EU membership talks.
Sources: Radio Free Europe / New York Times / Ekathimerini / Balkan Insight / Republic / The Guardian / PES