NATO’s relations with the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia¹

  • Last updated: 28 Apr. 2015 10:12

The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia aspires to join NATO. Support for democratic, institutional, security sector and defence reforms are a key focus of cooperation. The country actively supports the NATO-led missions in Afghanistan and Kosovo, and works with the Allies and other partner countries in many other areas.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg meets with the Prime Minister of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia¹, Nikola Gruevski

Highlights

  • The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia joined NATO’s Partnership for Peace in 1995.
  • The country joined the Membership Action Plan in 1999.
  • Beyond the need to make progress on reforms, the country has to find a mutually acceptable solution with Greece to the issue over its name before it can be invited to join NATO.
  • For many years, the country has provided valuable support to NATO-led operations and missions in Afghanistan and Kosovo.

More background information

  • The road to integration

    The Allies are committed to keeping NATO’s door open to Western Balkan partners that wish to join the Alliance, share its values and are willing and able to assume the responsibilities and obligations of membership. Euro-Atlantic integration is seen as the best way to ensure long-term, self-sustaining security and stability in the region.

    The Membership Action Plan (MAP) is a NATO programme of advice, assistance and practical support tailored to the individual needs of countries wishing to join the Alliance. Participation in the MAP does not prejudge any decision by the Alliance on future membership.

    At the April 2008 Bucharest Summit, Allies agreed that an invitation to join the Alliance will be extended to the country as soon as a mutually acceptable solution to the issue over its name has been reached with Greece. This agreement has been consistently reiterated at subsequent Summits. The Allies continue to encourage and support the continuation of reform efforts within the country, particularly with a view to ensuring effective democratic dialogue, media freedom, judicial independence and a fully functioning multi-ethnic society.

  • Key areas of cooperation

    Security cooperation

    An important focus of NATO’s cooperation with the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia is to develop the ability of the country’s forces to work together with forces from NATO countries and other partners, especially in peacekeeping and crisis-management operations. Participation in joint planning, training and military exercises within the framework of the Partnership for Peace (PfP) programme is essential in this regard. Moreover, in 2013, the country’s Public Affairs Regional Centre in Skopje was recognised as a Partnership Training and Education Centre, opening its activities to Allies and partners.

    The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia deployed troops in support of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan from 2002 to end 2014. Following the completion of ISAF’s operation at the end of 2014, the country is currently supporting the follow-on mission (‘Resolute Support’) to train, advise and assist the Afghan security forces.

    The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia was a key partner in supporting NATO-led stabilisation operations in Kosovo in 1999 and NATO forces were deployed to the country to halt the spread of the conflict as well as to provide logistical support to the Kosovo Force (KFOR). The Allies also provided humanitarian assistance to help the country deal with the flood of refugees from Kosovo. The country continues to provide valuable host nation support to KFOR troops transiting its territory.

    NATO came to the assistance of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, when violence between ethnic Albanian insurgents and security forces broke out in the west of the country in February 2001. Insurgents had taken control of a number of towns near the border with Kosovo, bringing the country to the brink of a civil war. NATO facilitated the negotiation of a ceasefire in June of that same year, which paved the way for a political settlement – the Ohrid Framework Agreement – in August 2001. In support of the settlement, NATO deployed a task force, “Essential Harvest”, to collect weapons handed over by the insurgents, as they prepared to disband. The NATO-led international monitoring mission continued to operate in support of the implementation of the Ohrid Agreement until 31 March 2003, when the European Union assumed the lead.

    A  NATO military headquarters created in Skopje during the operational period has since been downsized and transformed into a Liaison Office which assists with security sector reform and host nation support to KFOR.

    Defence and security sector reform

    The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia has initiated wide-ranging reforms that NATO is supporting. In the areas of defence and security sector reform, NATO and individual Allies have considerable expertise that the country can draw upon. In consultation with the Allies, the country continues to implement a broad range of reforms in line with its Strategic Defence Review.

    The country’s participation in the PfP Planning and Review Process facilitates cooperation in this area. The Allies have assisted in the development of a transformation plan for the country’s armed forces. The plan includes detailed programmes covering logistics, personnel, equipment, training and a timetable for the restructuring of key military units. Other key objectives include improving ethnic minority representation in civil/military defence structures and judicial and police reform.

    The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia joined the Operational Capabilities Concept (OCC) in 2005. The OCC is a mechanism through which units available for PfP operations can be evaluated and better integrated with NATO forces to increase operational effectiveness.

    Through participation in the Building Integrity Programme, the country is working to strengthen good governance in the defence and security sector. This Programme seeks to raise awareness, promote good practice and provide practical tools to help nations enhance integrity and reduce risks of corruption in the security sector by strengthening transparency and accountability.

    The country is also working with NATO to promote the implementation of United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1325, which recognises the disproportionate impact that war and conflicts have on women and children. UNSCR 1325 calls for full and equal participation of women at all levels in issues ranging from early conflict prevention to post-conflict reconstruction, peace and security.

    Civil emergency planning

    The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia is enhancing its national civil emergency and disaster-management capabilities in cooperation with NATO and through participation in activities organised by the Euro-Atlantic Disaster Response Coordination Centre. In consultation with NATO, a national crisis-management system has been established to ensure that the structures in place serve effectively and efficiently in the case of a national crisis.

    Security-related scientific cooperation

    The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia has been actively engaged within the framework of the NATO Science for Peace and Security (SPS) Programme since 1998. The SPS Programme enables close collaboration on issues of common interest to enhance the security of NATO and partner countries. By facilitating international efforts, in particular with a regional focus, the Programme seeks to address emerging security challenges, support NATO-led operations and advance early warning and forecast for the prevention of disasters and crises.

    Today, scientists and experts from the country are working to address a wide range of security issues. Recent activities have focused in particular on cyber defence and counter-terrorism, but there are also SPS projects and training courses underway that look at defence against chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) agents, and environmental security.

    Public information

    Given the country’s aspirations to join NATO, it is important to continue to build public awareness of how NATO works and of the rights and obligations which membership would bring. Public diplomacy activities also aim to develop and maintain links with civil society actors and to facilitate security-related information activities and programmes in the country. NATO’s Public Diplomacy Division plays a key role in this area, as do individual Allies and partner countries.

    In every partner country an embassy of one of the NATO member states serves as a contact point and operates as a channel for disseminating information about the role and policies of the Alliance. The current NATO Contact Point Embassy in Skopje is the embassy of Turkey.

  • Framework for cooperation

    In the Membership Action Plan (MAP) framework, the country sets out its reform plans and timelines in an Annual National Programme. Key areas include political, military and security sector reforms. Important priorities are efforts to meet democratic standards and ensure free and fair elections, as well as support for reducing corruption and fighting organised crime, judicial reform, improving public administration and promoting good neighbourly relations. NATO Allies provide feedback on the envisaged reforms and evaluate their implementation.

    More specific and technical reforms in the defence area are developed through the PfP Planning and Review Process (PARP), which the country joined in 1999. The role of the PARP is to provide a structured basis for identifying forces and capabilities that could be available to the Alliance for multinational training, exercises and operations. It also serves as the principal mechanism used to guide and measure defence and military reform progress. A biennial process, the PARP is open to all partners on a voluntary basis.

    The NATO Liaison Office, Skopje, plays a role in assisting the implementation of the defence reform plans, including through its NATO Advisory Team, which is located within the country's defence ministry.

    Beyond the focus on operational cooperation and support for reform, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia also cooperates with NATO and other partners in a wide range of areas through the PfP programme and the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council (EAPC).

    To facilitate cooperation, the country has established a mission to NATO as well as a liaison office at the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE) in Mons, Belgium.

  • Milestones in relations

    1995:  The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia joins the Partnership for Peace (PfP).

    1996:  The country hosts its first PfP training exercise “Rescuer”.

    1997:  The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia becomes a member of the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council (EAPC).

    1999:  The country plays a key role in supporting NATO operations in Kosovo, and the Allies provide assistance to ease the humanitarian crisis as refugees from Kosovo flood into the country.

    1999:  The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia joins NATO's Membership Action Plan (MAP) and the PfP Planning and Review Process (PARP).

    2001:  Violence flares up in the west of the country. NATO plays a key role in facilitating negotiations on a cease-fire reached in June. NATO Allies deploy a task force to collect arms from former combatants and support the implementation of the Ohrid Framework Agreement. Subsequently, they deploy a mission to protect international monitors, which is extended until December 2002.

    2002:  The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia deploys personnel in support of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan.

    April 2002:  NATO HQ Skopje is created to advise on military aspects of security sector reform.

    2003:  The NATO-led peace-monitoring mission in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia is handed over to the European Union.

    2005:  A combined medical team of the three MAP countries joins NATO-led forces in Afghanistan in August.

    2007:  The country hosts the EAPC Security Forum in Ohrid.

    April 2008:  At the Bucharest Summit, Allied leaders agree that the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia will be invited to start accession talks as soon as a mutually acceptable solution to the issue over the country’s name has been reached.

    2 October 2008:  President Branko Crvenkovski visits NATO Headquarters to meet Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, who stresses that the Alliance recognises the country’s hard work in defence reform and commitment to NATO's values and operations.

    12 February 2009:  Foreign Minister Antonio Milososki and Defence Minister Zoran Konjanovski visit NATO Headquarters.

    7-8 May 2009: During a trip to Western Balkan countries, NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer underlines his conviction that Euro-Atlantic integration offers the only feasible way for the region to move forward and his firm support for NATO’s “open door” policy.

    15 January 2010:  Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski meets Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen at NATO Headquarters. They discussed the country’s contribution to NATO operations, such as in Afghanistan, as well as the country’s progress towards Euro-Atlantic integration.

    18 June 2010:  During a visit to Skopje, the Secretary General expresses strong support to the country's further Euro-Atlantic integration.

    25 January 2012:  Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski addresses the North Atlantic Council.

    May 2012:  President Gjorge Ivanov attends a meeting at NATO’s Chicago Summit, joining counterparts from countries that are supporting the NATO-led stabilisation mission in Afghanistan. Also, Foreign Minister Nikola Poposki joins fellow foreign ministers from the three other countries that are aspiring to NATO membership in a meeting chaired by NATO's Deputy Secretary General.

    September 2012:  During a visit to NATO Headquarters of President Gjorge Ivanov, the Secretary General welcomes Skopje's commitment to continuing reforms and expresses his strong hope that a mutually acceptable solution to the issue of the country’s name could be reached as soon as possible within the framework of the United Nations.

    June 2013:  The North Atlantic Council accepts the country’s offer to make its Public Affairs Regional Centre in Skopje a Partnership Training and Education Centre, opening its activities to Allies and partners.

    12 February 2014:  Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski visits NATO Headquarters in Brussels. While praising the country’s excellent cooperation with the country, the Secretary General stresses that it will be key to keep the momentum of reform to realise the country’s Euro-Atlantic aspirations.

    22 May 2014:  During a visit to the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, the Secretary General emphasises that NATO’s door remains open to new members and urges the country’s to strive to find an acceptable solution on the name issue.

    11 March 2015:  During a visit of Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski to NATO Headquarters, Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg thanks the prime minister for his country’s support for the NATO-led missions in Afghanistan and Kosovo. He also expresses concern over recent political developments in Skopje, encouraging all political forces to act responsibly and to focus on the reforms necessary for progress on the country’s Euro-Atlantic agenda.

1. Turkey recognises the Republic of Macedonia with its constitutional name.