Joint press point
by NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen and the President of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia¹ , Mr. Gjorge Ivanov
Mr President, I am very pleased to meet you today. Your country is making a substantial contribution to NATO-led operations. We are very grateful for all that your troops do in Afghanistan. And we appreciate your support to lines of communication for KFOR in Kosovo.
And we very much welcome your firm commitment to the NATO accession process. The strong political and public support for membership in your country is important for NATO. At our Chicago Summit in May, we made clear that our door remains open to those countries aspiring to NATO membership and we remain committed to the Western Balkans region.
NATO’s Open Door policy and the enlargement of the European Union have utterly transformed your region. For all the countries that joined NATO, the accession process has been a motor for reform and paved the way to reconciliation. It has helped to improve relations with neighbours, strengthen the rule of law, and increase accountability and transparency.
I welcome your commitment to continuing reforms with determination.
And I strongly hope that a mutually acceptable solution to the name issue can be reached as soon as possible within the framework of the United Nations. NATO’s position is clear, and we restated that position in Chicago in May. We have agreed to extend an invitation for you to start accession negotiations as soon a mutually acceptable solution has been reached.
Mr. President, certainly the future of the Western Balkans is integration in the Euro-Atlantic family, where you belong.
GJORGE IVANOV (President of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia¹): Distinguished media representatives, I have launched my working visit to Brussels with the meeting with the NATO Secretary General and actually this is our very first meeting following the NATO Summit in Chicago. And as President of the Republic of Macedonia, I have open and sincere and friendly discussions with our partners and Allies from NATO. And this was the case at the meeting today.
I had very open and very honest and very constructive discussion with the Secretary General. We discussed all the aspects of the issues that are in front of us. The Alliance knows that in the Republic of Macedonia it has a sincere and loyal partner, a partner that has met all criteria and is waiting a deserved invitation for membership. Despite the fact that our expectations failed in Chicago at the Summit, I would like to point out that we are not disappointed and discouraged, and that we will continue with all the obligations towards NATO membership by fulfilling all standards and by keeping our army in full compatibility with the NATO standards.
Our expectations at the NATO Summit in Chicago were founded on the ruling of the International Court of Justice. Even before the Summit it was clear to us that it was not possible to get an invitation, but we were encouraged with the conclusion that Chicago was the last Summit without enlargement. This gives us the hope that it is not a question of whether, but when it will become a NATO member state.
We were encouraged with the discussion that we had with the Secretary General to make efforts for a solution to be reached regarding the name and we have an issue with our neighbour. And because the status quo situation in our region is not sustainable. We need to find a solution, and as partners in the talks we had today, which were very constructive, we were looking for the possibilities to find a solution, how to unblock this blockade regarding our NATO accession.
So in sports term it's our southern neighbour's turn. Greece has to respect the obligation it has taken and to demonstrate constructiveness in the entire process.
Also, we expect the other NATO member states to urge Greece to act responsibly towards its obligations. If Greece respects its obligations than a solution is possible. And that's why we urge NATO member states to be constructive and to reach this long-expected consensus which is necessary for Macedonia's NATO membership. We are convinced and we are sure that the Alliance, as many times before, will prove its capacity to bring correct decisions in difficult times. It is not the time to do the same regarding Macedonia, because Macedonia does not deserve to be left before the doors of NATO indefinitely.
And once again, I would like to invite our friends from Athens to sit at the table and discuss in order to find a mutually acceptable solution. Can you imagine that for 21 years there is no meeting between the Macedonian and Greek president. I have invited four times the Greek president for a meeting, and I received four times negative reply. How can we reach a solution if there is no partner for reaching the solution. That's why I appeal to Greece to act responsibly and to sit at the table and find a solution which would be in the interests of the region and in the interests of Greece itself. Because Greece will have a neighbour, a member state of NATO, with all criteria and standards requested by NATO MAP. And the safety zone will be expanded in our region, which went through trauma conflicts for a long time, and it is time for the entire Balkans to live in peace.
OANA LUNGESCU (NATO Spokesperson): We haven't got a lot of time, so I'd ask you, please, to ask your questions very briefly, to introduce yourselves and also to say who your question is addressed to. We'll start over there.
Q: (Inaudible...) Macedonia Information Agency. Mr. Rasmussen, first question for you. Do you expect Greece finally to start implementing its undertaking international commitments to respect the rule of the International Court of Justice, which means to stop blocking and hindering Macedonia Euro-Atlantic integration?
And for Mr. Ivanov, Mr. Ivanov, regarding the Hillary Clinton statement, you mentioned that the NATO Summit in Chicago was the last Summit without enlargement. Do we expect that Macedonia will receive an invitation to become a NATO member state without a solution to the name issue with Greece?
ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN (NATO Secretary General): Let me make three very brief points. Firstly, it is my strong wish to see all countries in the Western Balkans integrated in our Euro-Atlantic structures; that is, the European Union and NATO. And I hope to see progress across the board in that respect.
I have discussed that with the President today, and it is really my very strong wish to see your country as a coming member of NATO. And you have done a lot to fulfil the necessary criteria.
Now that's my first point. Secondly, there is one major outstanding issue, and that is the name issue. And we all know that it is very much up to Skopje and Athens to find the solution within the framework of the United Nations-sponsored process. And I urge all political leaders involved to go the extra mile, to do their utmost to find a pragmatic solution within that framework.
That leads me to my final point; that while this is very much up to Skopje and Athens within the United Nations framework, I have to stress that we took a decision in NATO in 2008 in Bucharest, that we are prepared to extend an invitation, to start accession negotiation, once a mutually acceptable solution to the name issue has been found. That decision still stands. We stand ready to extend such an invitation as soon as a solution to the name issue has been found.
And with that, I'm also stressing that while the process, as such, is very much between Skopje and Athens, it is a NATO decision, supported by all NATO Allies, that we need a mutually acceptable solution to the name issue.
And as you know, all decisions within NATO are made by consensus, so we need consent from all Allies in order to start accession negotiations with any country.
GJORGE IVANOV: The statement that you mentioned from Chicago, of Miss Hillary Clinton, was an optimistic one for us. Because the issue that keeps us outside of NATO is a bilateral issue. We're now in the past. Many countries without result bilateral issues became NATO member states. This gives us hope that such a solution for us is possible. Greece, before becoming NATO member state, did not manage to resolve many bilateral issues, although it became a NATO member state. This demonstrates that if there is willingness, if there is a will and desire there will be a way how to implement this. That's why we urge the political elites, not the citizens of Greece, to show willingness for a solution. There is willingness on our side. We are ready. That's why we do not need a NATO Summit so that we can be extended an invitation for a membership.
OANA LUNGESCU: Associated Press.
Q: Secretary General, regarding the insider attacks in Afghanistan, we've seen that they've already affected certain elements of the training of the Afghan army and police. Do you see them as possibly affecting the drawdown from Afghanistan since transition is a key element in NATO's exit strategy?
Also, what other concrete measures can ISAF take to prevent these attacks?
ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: First of all, let me stress that the insider attacks are a matter of strong concern. But let me also stress that they will not derail our transition process. That is, the gradual handing over of lead responsibility for the security to the Afghan Security Forces. Our goal, our strategy, our timetable, remain the same.
So we envisage that gradual process of handing over lead responsibility to the Afghans to be completed by the end of 2014.
Next, you asked which steps could be taken to prevent such insider attacks. A number of measures have already been taken. More steps will be taken, and on a regular basis we review the situation, and we stand ready, our commanders in the field stand ready to introduce new measures, if they're necessary.
These measures include strengthened vetting and screening procedures, improved counterintelligence measures, as well as what we might call cultural awareness training. Because we have to take into account that there may be a range of reasons for these regrettable incidents, and this is also reason why we have introduced, and will continue to introduce, a broad range of measures to prevent such attacks.
Because these attacks threaten to undermine trust and confidence between foreign troops and Afghan Security Forces. But the enemies of Afghanistan will not success in their efforts to undermine that trust and confidence. We'll do everything it takes to prevent such attacks.
OANA LUNGESCU: Thank you very much.