Brussels, 14 February 2020 (MIA) – Spain’s parliament is expected to greenlight North Macedonia’s NATO membership in early March. Immediately after the ratification, our country will officially join the world’s largest military and political alliance, Defense Minister Radmila Shekerinska told MIA’s Brussels correspondent.
Shekerinska gave this interview after taking part in the North Atlantic Council defense minister meetings held at the Alliance’s headquarters in Brussels on Feb. 12 and 13.
“We’re expecting the Spanish ratification in the first half of March,” Shekerinska said, before adding that North Macedonia can then “stamp, sign, and say” that this enormous project of utmost importance for her generation was carried out with success.
The Minister of Defense also spoke about the Law on the PPO and the consequences that may follow if it’s not adopted, as well as about the likelihood of sending our troops to Iraq.
You said it was only a matter of days—and not weeks or months—before North Macedonia becomes a full member of NATO. Can you give us more details on the Spanish ratification?
According to all the information our Spanish colleagues have given us, we’re expecting the Spanish ratification in the first half of March. Which means that during the same month, we can literally stamp, sign, and say that, through great effort, we have carried out this enormous project, strategically important for our country, with success.
This is an important matter for my generation, for our generations, and it’s a success that, after gaining our independence, might be counted as our country’s number one outcome.
Would there be any threat to our full membership if something were to get out of control on the Macedonian side?
I’m not anticipating any problems or unforeseen situations. Nonetheless, we’re working [hard] not to waste even a day or miss out on any single chance. Many people last year lackadaisically said there was nothing else we can do.
[But] I remember talking to some of your fellow reporters in Brussels this spring, and they were apprehensive about some other countries’ ratifications. Our assessment indeed turned out to be right – that the only possible unpleasant surprise might be the election calendar in Spain or their electoral rules.
This didn’t stop us from going to the place where all the world’s leaders gathered. It didn’t stop us from having a seat at the table in London and proving we’re truly a country that knows what it wants and knows how to get it.
We work so we can literally make use of each hour of each day and each day of each month.
That’s why we chose this option of our Parliament ratifying the Washington Treaty even before the Spanish ratification, so that we leave no vacuum, leave no room for losing even one day.
We’ve been waiting for this for twenty-seven years. It would be a shame if we didn’t jump on the chance as soon as we had it.
When will the Macedonian flag be raised at NATO headquarters?
Again, it remains up to Spain and its calendar, but as I said at the beginning [of this interview], I think March will be a beautiful month for the Brussels—or Belgian—wind to reveal the beauty of the Macedonian flag.
What’s the risk that the Law on the PPO doesn’t pass, following the threats of the opposition to boycott the vote? If this happens, will it put Macedonia in jeopardy of not getting a date for negotiations in March?
European decisions depend on European leaders. Our decisions depend on our government agencies. That’s why, instead of making predictions, I’d like to send a message. Skopje’s Parliament, the Parliament of the Republic of North Macedonia, is where the European battles are fought.
And anyone who has ever said “EU” on camera, anyone who has, at least once, written “EU membership” on their electoral program, needs to know that EU membership and starting negotiations means that every one of us should bear responsibility for it.
We, both as a government and as people, proved that we are shouldering this responsibility and taking all the risks. Now it’s the opposition’s turn to do it.
If they fail this test—if they fail to settle this matter that has unanimously been endorsed by NATO, the EU, America; everyone who knows this process has been saying, “You need to do it”—if they buckle under and fail, all they will end up doing is conceding they’re nothing but the extended arm of a fugitive in Budapest, their only goal being to hide his crimes and corruption.
At these meetings, did you discuss sending Macedonian troops to Iraq?
We, as part of the Adriatic Charter, which is a group of regional countries plus the US, during the past year, have been talking about the possibility of sending our officers to participate in the training mission in Iraq. However, recent developments in Iraq have put all those actions on the back burner.
Now we’re waiting to see NATO’s official decision.
By all predictions, NATO will engage in a number of the coalition’s Iraq missions, and we’ll be ready—especially in terms of training—to deploy our officers or non-commissioned officers – considering the great hands-on experience our army has had not only in Afghanistan but also in Iraq.
Translated by Magdalena Reed