Joint press point
with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and the Prime Minister of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia¹, Zoran Zaev - Secretary General's remarks
Prime Minister Zoran Zaev, welcome to NATO Headquarters, it’s a great honour and great pleasure to have you here and we have just finished a good meeting where we have addressed our partnership and how we work together.
We spoke after you took office. And I want to also today use this opportunity to congratulate you again on your appointment as Prime Minister.
NATO welcomes the formation of a new government following months of political crisis in your country. NATO and the rest of the international community were shocked by the violence at the parliament in Skopje in April. Real progress has been made since then. I continue to encourage all parties to put their divisions aside. To engage constructively in the political process and to work in the interests of all people in your country. So Prime Minister, you and I have just discussed the importance of reforms. Good governance, the rule of law, strengthening of a multi-ethnic society, and good neighbourly relations are all essential. Further progress in these areas will benefit all your citizens. It will also advance your country’s Euro-Atlantic aspirations. NATO and the European Union speak with one voice on these issues.
NATO has invested in the security and stability of the Western Balkans for more than two decades and the region has made significant progress since the 1990s. We want to see your country as part of a stable, democratic and prosperous region. Last week, Montenegro became the 29th member of the Alliance. This shows that NATO’s door remains open. We continue to support your nation on the path towards eventual membership of the Alliance. As with all aspirant countries, it is important to remain focussed on the reform agenda and to ensure political stability. There may be hurdles to overcome - but it can be done over time.
So Prime Minister, your country is already an important partner. For years your troops have served in Afghanistan. NATO values this continued contribution to our Resolute Support Mission. It is a clear sign of your country’s commitment to international security. So Prime Minister Zaev, thank you once again. I look forward to working with you and once again, welcome to NATO Headquarters. The floor is yours.
Q: Secretary General a question for you. You mentioned that Macedonia has quite a bit reforms to deliver. So my question is if Macedonia delivers these reforms, as you said NATO speaks in one voice, will it speak in one voice if Macedonia does it’s deal and if it breaks down all the reforms needed? And if there is some kind of relaxation in the good neighbourly relations between Macedonia and Greece especially is there a possibility for somehow modification of the communique from Bucharest?
JENS STOLTENBERG (NATO Secretary General): I was present at the summit in Bucharest back in 2008 where we made a decision that we are committed to the accession of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia to the alliance, but where we also stated clearly that what we need to be able to follow up and extend an invitation is that there is a solution to the name issue, a mutually acceptable solution to the name issue has to be reached within a UN framework. And that is still the position of the alliance, we have reiterated that position at our summits following the Bucharest summit in 2008 and we did so also at the summit in Warsaw in 2016 last year. So that’s still the NATO position. At the same time I would also like underline that we welcome the very clear message from the new government that they will now intensify the dialogue with Greece to try to find a mutually acceptable solution within a UN framework. And also the very clear and strong message from the new government on reforms, on the importance of the rule of law, of a multi-ethnic society, of good neighbourly relationships and also the very strong political support to a stronger partnership with NATO. What we have seen is that NATO’s door is open. A few days ago we welcomed Montenegro as the 29th member of the alliance and I think that it’s hard to find any stronger proof of the fact that our door is open to countries that meet the NATO standards, which implement reforms and in this case also where we have to see a mutually acceptable solution to the name issue with a NATO framework.
PIERS CAZALET (NATO Deputy Spokesperson): Teri Schultz [inaudible].
Q: Hi, thank you to both of you. Mr. Prime Minister there’s been some confusion about the chronology of your plan to start, to start your membership negotiations here at NATO. Will you try to enter under another name? I mean are you planning to use Upper Macedonia? FYROM? Can you start talks this way and then will you put it to a referendum with your people? So could you just kind of lay out for us clearly the tick tock of how you plan to go forward? And Mr. Secretary General we, we have tended to believe that the name crisis was, was the only obstacle in recent years but you’ve mentioned reforms. What are the other barriers that could prevent Macedonia from joining quickly? And how big a factor is Russian meddling in this? Thank you.
ZORAN ZAEV (Prime Minister of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia): [as interpreted]. Thank you for your question. It’s, truly this all this here, this block process for the integration of the Republic of Macedonia in NATO, we have studied all, the whole region that is standing in one place it just causes crisis. As I said we will try on all possible measures to move Macedonia towards its full membership in NATO. I expect support from the citizens of Greece through their government and their opposition in solving this problem. There’s still alternatives here, we hope that with this temporary, with a [inaudible] become a member of NATO but then we can continue the name, the discussions with the name with Greece regarding our integration process in the European Union. As till now the experience with the Montenegro, even with the temporary reference, we can receive an invitation from NATO, according to all the agreements with Greece and during the ratification process with all the 29 member states of NATO we can still have a two years in advance to find a solution. All possible alternatives are in effect can be put in place and this mostly depends on our southern neighbour, we will be just a reason more to find more positive solutions for the stability for the region and this is all possible if this is, if Macedonia becomes a full membership of NATO, member of NATO.
JENS STOLTENBERG: A mutually acceptable solution to the name issue is explicitly mentioned in the communique from the Warsaw Summit. But we also underline the importance of reform and that’s exactly why I welcome the very strong commitment of the new government to reform, rule of law, fighting corruption and strong democratic institutions. When it comes to foreign meddling or interference in the political processes I will say that any outside interference in domestic political processes is unacceptable and the best response and the best way to strengthen the resilience against foreign interference or foreign meddling in political processes is to build a strong democratic institutions, is to modernize your government, your, political institutions and to implement reforms. So again reform is the best way to move towards Euro Atlantic integration and reform is also the best way to strengthen resilience against interference from outside.
PIERS CAZALET: Telma TV.
Q: [as interpreted]. So from Telma Television. For the General Secretary. I would like to take you back to the procedures. You spoke about the significance of the Western Balkans for the stability. If the acceptance of Macedonia, if you put this in this context and all the new geo-political surroundings in this region, especially with the infliction of the Russia, the greater Russian interference, the question is, is still outside these procedures having in mind all the procedures and the conclusion from Bucharest, is there any door for acceptance of Macedonia by the temporary reference?
JENS STOLTENBERG: Well what we have stated clearly at every summit since 2008 is that we need a mutually acceptable solution within the NATO framework. So we are not explicit on what kind of solution, the important thing is that it has to be a mutually acceptable and as long as it’s something which is accepted by Greece and of course by the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia then we can start to move. But it’s not for me to dictate or to specify exactly what kind of solution as long it is a mutually acceptable solution within a UN framework. Let me add that NATO really understands the importance of this region, of the Western Balkans. NATO has helped end two ethnic wars in the Western Balkans, we have a long history in the Western Balkans, we have worked closely with Skopje in addressing the instability in the region, we have a liaison office in Skopje. We are very grateful for the contributions to our missions and operations not least to our presence in Afghanistan and we are proving or we proved just some few days ago that NATO’s door is open for countries in the Western Balkans by inviting or by accepting Montenegro as our 29th member.
PIERS CAZALET: Okay, thank you very much ladies and gentlemen.
JENS STOLTENBERG: Thank you.