NATO’s relations with the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia¹
Cooperation between the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia¹ and NATO takes place across a wide range of areas: operationally in Afghanistan and in support of KFOR, practically with a particular emphasis on defence and security sector reform. The country joined NATO’s Partnership for Peace in 1995 and aspires to become a NATO member. It joined the Membership Action Plan in 1999, a programme of advice, assistance and practical support tailored to the needs of countries wishing to join NATO.
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 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.
NATO also remains committed to the long-term peace and stability of the region. At Skopje’s request, the Alliance engaged in operations Essential Harvest, Allied Harmony and Amber Fox (2001-2003), with the aim of creating a safe and secure environment and reducing tension between the country’s ethnic Albanian minority and national security forces. 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 the Kosovo Force (KFOR).
Beyond the ongoing work on reform, another important area of cooperation is the country’s support for NATO-led operations. For many years, it has been providing valuable support to KFOR troops transiting the country. It also contributes to the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan and has indicated its willingness to participate in the post-2014 follow-on mission to train and assist Afghan security forces, after ISAF’s mission has ended.
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 KFOR. The Allies also provided humanitarian assistance as refugees from Kosovo fled into the country. 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. The 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 key objective of cooperation is to develop the ability of the country’s armed forces to work alongside Allied forces in peace-support and crisis-management operations. Participation in NATO’s PfP Planning and Review Process (PARP) has provided a framework for cooperation in this area.
The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia has been supporting ISAF in Afghanistan since 2002; it currently contributes some 150 troops. The country has also indicated its willingness to participate in the post-2014 NATO-led mission to train, advise and assist the Afghan forces, which will be deployed once the transition to Afghan security lead has been completed and ISAF’s operation is terminated.
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 wide range of reforms in line with its Strategic Defence Review. The country’s participation in the PARP has facilitated cooperation in the area of defence reform.
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.
The country is 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.
The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia is also working to strengthen good governance in the defence and security sector through participation in the Building Integrity Programme. 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.
Training is an important part of security cooperation with the country and its personnel regularly participate in activities organised under the PfP programme. Moreover, the country’s Public Affairs Regional Centre in Skopje was recognised as a Partnership Training and Education Centre in 2013, opening its activities to Allies and partners.
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.
Science and environment
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, notably in the fields of cyber defence, defence against chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) agents, environmental security and disaster forecast and prevention of natural catastrophes. A hands-on cyber defence training course took place in April 2013. The aim of the training course was to create institutional capability and increase awareness on cyber threats with a view to enhancing the resiliency of national IT infrastructures. Future areas for concrete cooperation were discussed by national government officials, scientists and experts at an SPS ‘Information Day’ held in Skopje in June 2013.
Given that the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia aims to join NATO, it is important to continue to ensure public awareness of how NATO works and of the rights and obligations which membership brings. Public diplomacy activities also aim to develop and maintain links with civil society actors and to facilitate security-related 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 Embassy of Turkey in Skopje acts as a Contact Point Embassy (CPE) for NATO.
The country cooperates with NATO and other partners in a wide range of areas through the Partnership for Peace (PfP) programme and the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council (EAPC). In the Membership Action Plan (MAP) framework, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia sets out its reform plans and timelines in its Annual National Programme (ANP). 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 Partnership for Peace 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.
The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia joins the Partnership for Peace (PfP).
The country hosts its first PfP training exercise ”Rescuer”.
The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia becomes a member of the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council (EAPC).
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.
The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia joins NATO's Membership Action Plan (MAP) and the PfP Planning and Review Process (PARP).
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 (Operation Essential Harvest) and support the implementation of the Ohrid Framework Agreement. Subsequently, they deploy a mission to protect international monitors (Operation Amber Fox), which is extended until December 2002.
The country deploys personnel in support of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan.
NATO HQ Skopje is created, in April, to advise on military aspects of security sector reform.
The NATO-led peace-monitoring mission (Operation Allied Harmony) in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia is handed over to the European Union.
A combined medical team of the three MAP countries joins NATO-led forces in Afghanistan in August.
The country hosts the EAPC Security Forum in Ohrid.
In April, Allies 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.
The Secretary General visits Skopje in June 2010.
Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski addresses the North Atlantic Council on 25 January.
President Gjorge Ivanov attends a meeting at NATO’s 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.
During a visit to NATO Headquarters of President Gjorge Ivanov on 4 September, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen 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.
In June, 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.
In February, Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski visits NATO Headquarters in Brussels and in May, the NATO Secretary General visits Skopje.