Ausrine ARMONAITE (Lithuania)
25 April 2019
The Republic of North Macedonia is on the cusp of accession to NATO. Following the ratification of the landmark Prespa agreement with Greece that changes the country’s legal name from the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia to the Republic of North Macedonia, Athens ended its opposition to Skopje’s NATO membership. The name-change accord, which required enormous courage on both sides, has brought to a close a 27-year-long diplomatic dispute between the two countries and followed the resolution of Skopje’s outstanding disputes with Bulgaria. NATO member states are now in the process of ratifying the NATO accession treaty. North Macedonia is expected to become the Alliance’s 30th member at some point over the next year after the last Allied country ratifies the treaty.
Although North Macedonia has undergone a political transition fraught with pitfalls, the country appears to have moved in a decidedly more democratic direction since 2017. The new administration set about guaranteeing fairer media funding, placing the secret police under greater democratic oversight, repairing relations with Bulgaria, giving the Albanian language official national recognition and, accelerating the campaign for NATO and EU membership. This not only set the stage for the Prespa Agreement and NATO accession, it could also herald the beginning of much needed but painful economic reform. This will be essential to putting the national economy on a solid footing and fulfilling the country’s aspirations for EU membership.
The draft report encourages parliaments in each NATO member country are encouraged to ratify North Macedonia’s Accession Protocol as quickly as possible. Doing so will help send a strong signal that NATO’s door remains open and that those who manage to walk through it will be more secure, stable, and prosperous as a result. More support is needed to help this country carry out essential democratic reforms, including the fight against corruption and judicial reform. Ongoing efforts to foster a spirit of bipartisanship and interethnic reconciliation in this long-divided country are also essential. It suggests that Allied governments should encourage the continued implementation of reforms within North Macedonia, particularly with a view to ensuring effective democratic dialogue, media freedom, judicial independence and a fully functioning multi-ethnic society. Fighting corruption must remain high on the agenda.