Message by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on the first anniversary of North Macedonia's membership to NATO
Prime Minister Zaev,
Ladies and gentlemen.
I had the privilege of visiting North Macedonia many times,
as part of the accession process.
I always enjoyed your hospitality, and felt welcome in your beautiful country.
So I was delighted to welcome North Macedonia into our transatlantic family one year ago.
And I am also glad to be able to address you today.
To celebrate your first anniversary as a member of NATO.
You are a sovereign country in a strong Alliance.
With a seat at our table.
And an equal voice in shaping our decisions.
Your membership of NATO is a significant achievement.
It marked the end of a long journey.
Paved with courage and determination.
And the personal commitment of many of you here today.
I would also like to thank Colonel Zoran Jankovič,
and all the colleagues of the NATO Liaison Office in Skopje,
who supported you every step of the way.
NATO membership set North Macedonia on a path of stability and prosperity.
Surrounded by 29 friends and Allies.
This is good for the people of North Macedonia.
Good for regional security.
And good for transatlantic security.
NATO helps to create stability which is the bedrock of economic growth.
North Macedonia is a valuable NATO Ally.
You support NATO’s peacekeeping mission in Kosovo.
And our training mission in Iraq.
Together with Defence Minister Radmila Shekerinska I met your special forces training in Skopje.
And I met your highly professional, courageous troops fighting international terrorism, when I visited Kabul.
You also help support Afghan security forces with funding.
So North Macedonia is a reliable security provider.
I welcome the fact that you have increased defence spending.
And have a clear plan to invest 2 percent of GDP in defence by 2024.
North Macedonia shows in many other ways that it is a reliable Ally.
For example by hosting an important civil preparedness exercise later this year.
Your first year of NATO membership was marked by the pandemic.
But all Allies have stood together in these difficult times.
We coordinated our support through NATO’s disaster relief centre.
To help ease the burden on your healthcare system and save lives.
Allies delivered medical supplies, ventilators, a field hospital and financial assistance.
This is NATO solidarity in action.
Yet while we are dealing with the pandemic, other threats to our security have not gone away.
Just the opposite, many existing trends and tensions have accelerated.
A more assertive Russia.
Brutal terrorist threats.
Sophisticated cyber attacks.
The rise of China.
And the security impacts of climate change.
So our Alliance must continue to adapt.
And that is what we are doing.
Later this year, I look forward to welcoming North Macedonia to your first NATO Summit.
Where we will set an ambitious agenda for the future of our Alliance, through our NATO 2030 initiative.
Because in these uncertain times, it is even more important to have friends and Allies.
So congratulations again to North Macedonia on a successful first year.
Thank you for your continued contributions to our shared security.
And thank you to the NATO Liaison Office for all your help and support over the years.
Together we stand, 30 Allies strong.
Together we continue to keep our people safe.