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.