by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg to the Parliament of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia¹
Members of Parliament, Excellencies, Ladies and gentlemen, dear friends,
I am deeply honoured to stand here in front of you today.
And I thank you Mr. President for the generous invitation to speak to the Parliament here in Skopje.
I do so as Secretary General of NATO.
An organisation of which this country is already a very close and highly valued friend.
For more than 15 years the men and women of your highly-skilled armed forces have participated in Allied and international missions.
For instance, bringing security and stability in Afghanistan.
And helping the people there to dream of a brighter future.
Thank you for everything your country has done in support for international security.
For our part, for the part of NATO, in 2001-2002, NATO also made considerable contributions to the security and the stability of this country. And we still have an advisory role.
And earlier today I met with the NATO office here in Skopje and I commended them for the work they are doing, in working together with you.
But today I am here, standing in front of you, to talk about the brighter future you are building for yourselves.
And the doors you are opening.
NATO is the most successful alliance in the history.
Representing half of the world’s economic might.
And half of the world’s military might.
We have been engaged in the Western Balkans for more than two decades.
Because we want this region to be secure, prosperous and free.
And because we want this country to be secure, prosperous and free.
All your friends in NATO support you in your efforts.
But none of us take success for granted.
The events in this building, of April last year, in this very chamber, shocked me, and they shocked all NATO Allies.
But we have been impressed by what we have seen since then. The progress you have made.
And I want to praise the progress you have all made together. In creating a new, more open, more inclusive political culture.
In forging a new national spirit.
As a former parliamentarian myself and as a former prime minister of Norway, I understand many of the challenges you continue to face.
But a long political career has taught me that the more inclusive a country, the more successful it is.
Diversity is a strength, not a weakness.
Where there is inclusion and open dialogue, supported by good governance, there is resilience.
In the Washington Treaty, NATO’s founding document, Allies explicitly stated their commitment to the principles of democracy, individual liberty and the rule of law.
Those principles – those ideals – define what NATO is.
And, increasingly, they define what this country is.
That is why I strongly welcome your resolve to pursue the path of Euro-Atlantic integration.
Including membership in NATO.
NATO has shown that the path to joining the Alliance is open to countries who are willing and able to meet the responsibilities involved.
The Washington Treaty states that Allies ‘may, by unanimous agreement, invite any other European state’ to join the Alliance.
If it is in a position to ‘further the principles’ of the Treaty.
And ‘contribute to the security of the North Atlantic area’.
Those are the conditions under which Montenegro became NATO’s 29th member last year.
With a seat at our table.
An equal voice in our discussions.
And the same rights and the same responsibilities as any other Ally.
Watching the Montenegrin flag raised for the first time at NATO Headquarters last year was really a proud moment for me.
And there is still room for more flags in front of the NATO Headquarters.
Allies have been impressed by your determination and enthusiasm to join the Alliance.
I want you to succeed.
And NATO wants you to succeed.
But while it is good to be ambitious, it is also important to be realistic.
There is still much hard work to be done.
That means, of course, resolving the issue of your country’s name.
It’s an issue that has weighed on this region – and this country – for far too long.
And therefore I welcome the willingness of your government to resolve this issue and the resolve the government has shown.
And yesterday’s meeting of negotiators under the United Nations Framework in New York was another valuable step.
I am encouraged by recent progress – as are all NATO Allies – and I urge you to take this chance to move forward.
However, membership is about much more than solving the name issue.
Allies are bound together not just by common interests but also by common values.
And countries aspiring to join the Alliance must demonstrate that they share those values.
That means sticking to the path of reform.
I commend you for the efforts you have already made.
Including on the 3-6-9 Plan.
The passing of the language law in Parliament last week was a significant step.
We also note important progress on transparency, accountability, oversight of the intelligence and security agencies, and judicial reform. And that must continue.
We hope to see similar progress on electoral reform, reform of the media and greater transparency in government finances.
Every member of this chamber will play a key role.
You all carry a responsibility.
Not just to legislate.
Not just to implement reform.
But to embody what this country can be.
Free, democratic and respectful of the rule of law.
And here the role of the opposition is crucial. Scrutinising and questioning the government.
Constructively contributing to the process.
Let me also acknowledge the critical role of the civil society and commend the role the civil society in this country is playing. Helping to move reform forward and supporting progress.
As well as the contribution every single citizen of this country can make.
No matter where, or which community, you come from.
It is also vital to be able to demonstrate good relations with your neighbours.
Here, too, Allies are impressed by the progress you have made.
I congratulate you on the ratification of the Treaty of Friendship with Bulgaria.
And encourage you to continue to work to improve relations with others in the region.
It is also crucial for NATO to see you investing in your defence.
We are a military Alliance whose chief purpose is collective defence.
With a solemn commitment to come to each other’s aid. Based on the principle of one for all and all for one.
All NATO Allies have committed to increase defence spending to 2% of GDP.
The Alliance wants to see this country moving in the same direction.
And therefore I commend your government’s commitment to the 2% guideline.
We also want to see efforts to boost the ability of our militaries to work together on operations.
And continuing reform of your defence institutions.
And we look forward to seeing the fruits of the Strategic Defence Review later this year.
NATO’s door is open to new members.
But crossing the threshold requires hard work.
We will support you as much as we can.
Including with practical support on defence reforms.
Improving defence education and investment.
And fighting corruption in the defence sector.
I do not underestimate the challenges you face.
Continue to be transparent with us about the reforms you are implementing.
We will continue to support you through our partnership programme.
And through the NATO Liaison Office here in Skopje.
We know there are challenges but we want to help you.
We understand that part of our dialogue is about the citizens of this country getting to know NATO better.
And we are keen to expand the public engagement we have with the people of this country.
So colleagues, friends,
Nine months ago, you were approaching the edge of a cliff.
Since then you have turned a country of potential instability into a country of real opportunity.
Today, the door is open.
To better transatlantic relations and to better relations with your neighbours.
To the Euro-Atlantic community and NATO.
And to a new, brighter, and more prosperous future.
There is still work to do.
But we have the tools and you have the tools and you have the vision and you have the drive.
And, in NATO, you have a true friend.