PM Gruevski Addresses at the North Atlantic Council in Brussels

I would like to appeal to all NATO member countries to re-examine the issue for the membership of Macedonia in the first following occasion and before the Alliance's Summit in Chicago, Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski told NATO Ambassadors Wednesday at a North Atlantic Council session in Brussels. I consider that it is rational and correct that an invitation for NATO membership is extended to the Republic of Macedonia at the Chicago Summit, he said.

"It will mean understanding of the needs and interests of my citizens for having conditions for further social and economic development, for new reforms and modernization and creation of new deeds based on the values of the Alliance. NATO has a political leadership, which stands for the progress, and your assistance will be a strong encouragement for a small country with a great faith in the Euro-Atlantic principles of justice and equality, such as mine. Moving forward of the Republic of Macedonia on the Euro-Atlantic integration road is a small, but a significant contribution to the advancement of the Alliance, and the greatest benefit of this will be felt by the entire region of South-East Europe, and NATO as a whole," Gruevski said.

Our expectations from the forthcoming Declaration from Chicago are clear and very reasonable, he said, pointing out that the final document of forthcoming NATO Summit should not just repeat the wording of the previous Summits regarding the status of Macedonia.
"Instead, taking into account the most recent development of the events in this unique case that reflect the new reality, it should appropriately re-phrase the language and result in an invitation for Macedonia to NATO," Gruevski said.

When I was coming at this meeting, the PM said, the following inscription drew my attention: ANIMUS IN CONSULENDO LIBER or A FREE MIND IN OPEN CONSULTATION. In such spirit I would like to refer to the main challenge for the fully-fledged NATO membership of my country, and that is the dispute that a NATO member country is having with us and that refers to our constitutional name and to how we name ourselves, which is what the people have had as a feeling and with what they have identified themselves for centuries, which was provided under the Atlantic Charter of the allies for self-determination and confirmed at a referendum 20 years ago, the PM said.

"I wish to emphasize that we are strongly interested in firm cooperation, partnership and alliance with all countries from Europe and the Alliance, especially with our neighbors, and therefore, we are dedicated to building good neighborly relations, characterized by friendship, mutual economic and trade cooperation, free flow of people, goods, ideas and capital, interaction of peoples and common investment in the regional development. There is no need for Greece to be fearful of the Republic of Macedonia, to the contrary, Greece should be strongly interested in our membership in the Alliance and lasting security of this part of the region. It is required by our common goals, which are identical with those of the Alliance to have a firm tissue, rather than an empty room in the NATO's body, and to be able to commit ourselves to further expansion of our ideas," Gruevski said.

We were very much hurt as a nation, he said, that at the 12. Summit in Bucharest it was not enabled to us to receive the membership invitation, although we fulfilled all standards and criteria that were required from us.

"In the spirit of the maxim for free debate, I think that that was wrong and unjust towards us and our commitments, but also towards the principles of the modern world. This general conclusion was also confirmed by the highest international body, which provides rule of law and justice, on which the Alliance is based as well.  The International Court of Justice in The Hague, established by the NATO members is one out of the 6 UN bodies," Gruevski said.
He reminded the session's attendants that on 5 December last year The Hague-based International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled that Greece violated its commitments undertaken by the 1995 Interim Accord between the two countries, by opposing Macedonia's accession to NATO at the Bucharest Summit in 2008 under the interim reference determined by the UN.

"Although the case instituted before the ICJ was not about the name issue per se, the judgment provides a new, legal dimension of the remaining obstacle for our membership in NATO and requires a new approach from the allies. An approach without blackmailing and conditionings towards anybody, neither towards us, nor towards our neighbors Greeks, but rather an approach of support and demonstration in reality of the principle of mutual solidarity. The Court's judgment is leading us to a step forward together, it is a fresh impetus for overcoming the existing challenge, and we should take advantage of this favorable wave of opportunities. Likewise, the Court does not consider that Greece has any reason to not follow the principle of the judgment and in accordance with its obligations from the international law, to not refrain from blocking the NATO membership of Macedonia. Any further attempt by Greece in this direction, which would be based on solving the name issue as a precondition for NATO membership, would be a violation of the international law and failure to respect the ICJ judgment," the PM said.

He considers that NATO member countries should take into account this judgment and accordingly, re-examine their positions with respect to the membership of the Republic of Macedonia in NATO.

"Likewise, I hope that the member countries of NATO will especially take into account the finding of the ICJ that Macedonia has never violated the principle of good neighborly relations, a fact which is totally in accordance with the values and standards of NATO."

Therefore, practically there is not other reason for postponing the invitation for the Republic of Macedonia to join NATO, Gruevski said.

"Please allow me to be completely clear- the Republic of Macedonia remains fully committed to finding a mutually acceptable solution for overcoming the differences regarding the name with Greece. We will continue to participate in the process of negotiations under the auspices of the Secretary-General of the United Nations, in good faith, as thus far. Unfortunately, the new Greek 'technical' Government failed to manifest willingness for an essential engagement in this process, emphasizing its primarily “economic” mandate. However, we do not give up, and we will endeavor dedicatedly and responsibly to continue the dialogue, and we are ready, through direct meetings, at any level, to reach a solution, which will be, primarily, sustainable, without winners and defeated," Gruevski said.

Although the Republic of Macedonia is not a formal Alliance member, he said, "allow me to speak as if we are a part of you, because that is how we feel, we believe in and contribute to same values, and I am strongly convinced that in near future our membership will be formalized. With your support and assistance, in the spirit of mutual solidarity."

In these turbulent times, Gruevski said, the eyes of the entire public in the world are rightly directed towards the Alliance. The vast majority of the world public expects that we will assume a strong role in the improvement of the general conditions, provide an assurance of the economic development and growth by guaranteeing stability and peace, securing capital and promoting human rights and values at the places where they are threatened. To build strong democratic societies at places where the open-minded human thought and free spirit have been suppressed, must remain in our focus. 

"Aimed at realization of the principles, we consider that the new strategic political and military framework which is expected to be established at the Summit in Chicago is fully in compliance with the key message of the Permanent Partnership with Afghanistan, as well as the commitments of NATO by and after 2014, according to which 'the transition is not departure'. The long-standing engagement and sustainable programs for Afghanistan is the key to a successful mission. We believe that the strong engagement of NATO in Afghanistan during the transition and post-transition period will result in a political, civil and economic support of the country," the PM said.

As a country that contributes to the ISAF mission and as a partner to NATO, the Republic of Macedonia is supporting the general approach for replacement of the dominant military engagement by stronger education and training of the Afghan security forces as soon as possible, Gruevski said.

"Macedonia is dedicated to this process. Our peace forces, shoulder to shoulder with our allies, guarantee the peace there, bravely and uncompromisingly facing all temptations and undertaking challenges that stand on the way of the freedom of people. Our participation in ISAF forces is the fifth per capita regarding all allies and it is a proof of our definite belief in the principles proclaimed by NATO. The political support for this undertaking is unreserved."

He pointed out that in the previous rotations of Macedonian forces, which have been taking place for 9 years, there wasn't any vote against at the Macedonian Parliament, and so far, around 50% of the Army members were rotated. The peacekeepers are directly involved in the protection of the base in Kandahar, which is one of the riskiest in the field, and have participated in many risky direct sensitive operations in which they distinguished themselves with their decisiveness and courage, and for which they were appropriately decorated.

"I would like to emphasize that on the ground, we are playing together in the same field and with the same objective and we share common conditions, and probably it is all right that we have a feeling that it should be allowed to us to be an equal, formal part of the club and enjoy the benefits of that membership. Using sports terminology I would say that it would be a fair play for us that as a part of the players, we have a stable ability for the players’ families to enjoy the economic growth and development and have a guarantee of their safety. I consider that we are at a level at which we have reached the common standards, a fact also confirmed by the Alliance at the Summit in Bucharest," Gruevski said.

Referring to Macedonia's strategic and fundamental commitments, the PM said NATO membership has been a strategic goal of all Governments thus far and 'we have been investing a lot in its realization.'

"Our citizens, firmly, with more than 85%, support the realization of this essential aspiration. In the reality, Macedonia acts as de facto NATO member. We remain much dedicated as a reliable partner of the Alliance to continuation of our participation in the operations of NATO and other international missions and along with you, to contributing to the peace and stability of the countries and peoples that need it the most. Our membership in NATO and EU, as well as the building of good neighborly relations, developing and improving of the regional cooperation, consolidating the economic growth and competitiveness, reaching a high employment rate, increasing the standard of living and quality of life remain the highest strategic priorities in the Government program for the period from 2011 to 2015," Gruevski said.

Referring to some more significant Macedonia's reform efforts in 2011, Gruevski notified the successful early parliamentary elections, assessed by OSCE and ODIHR as fair and democratic and conducted in accordance with the highest internationals standards; progress in implementing the Ohrid Framework Agreement, saying that there is further advancement of the equitable representation; namely adoption of the laws on the Use of the Non-Majority Languages; Use of the Flags of the Non-Majority Communities and the Strategy for Integrated Education are implemented, etc.

"The Public Administration Reform is conducted in cooperation with the European Agency SIGMA, through a whole package of new laws on public and civil servants and evaluation of the employees by the citizens, aimed at building a public administration which is highly professional, depoliticized, accountable and reliable, as well by creating systems for receiving e-services from the state institutions in order to reduce the costs in terms of citizens' time and means, and by introducing the institute 'silence of the administration is consent' which increases citizens' rights and the efficiency of the procedures. The implementation of the judiciary reforms is accelerated by selecting judges and public prosecutors from an especially established Academy of Judges and Public Prosecutors, through new criteria for competences and education, but also a professional integrity and personal credibility of the judges, by doubling the budget of the judicial authority, modifying several laws which enable greater efficiency of the judges and which prescribe concrete deadlines for settlement of disputes, introducing a possibility for free legal advice for the citizens and other measures the objective of which is further strengthening of the independence and efficiency of the judiciary system," the PM said.

In the field of fight against corruption and organized crime, he said, we are continuing with efficient implementation of new legislation, strengthened inter-institutional cooperation and implementation of our policy of zero tolerance, and we have achieved a progress of around 40 places on the global list of Transparency International. Police reforms are also implemented by improving the implementation of the laws and protection and respect for the fundamental human rights and freedoms, increasing the confidence of all communities in the police, improving the public security and enhancing the fight against organized crime and corruption.

"We are seriously focused on the improvement of the status of the media, and for the first time since the independence of the country, an open debate with the journalists’ association has been set up and we are working actively and in a coordinated manner on harmonization of the Macedonian legislation with the European Directive on Audio-Visual Media Services and with the recommendations and standards of the Council of Europe, as well as recommendations of the European Commission noted in the Progress Report for the Republic of Macedonia," he said.

In the field of education, the PM said that Macedonia allocated 6% of GDP to investments, introduced free, compulsory high school education, and reduced by 50% the prices of the higher education.

Faculties are opened in each city, primary education has been reformed, the percentage of enrolled high school students has reached fantastic 98% of those who completed primary education, and 96% of those who completed high school enrolled at Universities, he added.

Speaking about infrastructure, he said that around 270 regional and local roads were reconstructed, built, or are in a process of building, presenting around 80% of the road network. Two modern airports have been built and corridors 10 and 8 are completed, he added.

"I would like to emphasize that in the area of economy as well, Macedonia is implementing wise and successful policies, which are a guarantee of our sustainability and contribution to the general objectives of the Alliance, for which we were positively assessed by the World Bank which ranked us at the 22. position this year on the total list for doing business, and 5 years in a row it has placed us among the 5 greatest reformers in the world. The credit agencies confirmed our credit rating, and IMF confirmed that we are low indebted country with a foreign debt of 26% of GDP, which is one of the lowest debts in Europe. In the first three quarters of the year, the average GDP growth is 3.75% which, in such turbulent times, is a quite solid result. The national currency is firmly stable, banking system is liquid and in a good shape and foreign exchange reserves of the country are at the historically highest level," Gruevski said.

Macedonia has the lowest tax package in Europe, which contributed to the realization of several FDIs in the past few months and several others have been announced, by which new employment possibilities will be created.

"We are dedicated to the further development of the economy, increase in the economic growth and further attraction of foreign investments, as well as creation of conditions for new jobs and provision of better quality of life. We are fully aware of the challenges that have remained in certain areas, but we are decisive to face them and overcome them appropriately," The PM said.

He also emphasized that Macedonia recently submitted the 13. National Program for NATO membership for the period 2011-2012, and "we have immediately started with the implementation of the activities envisaged in it. We sincerely hope that number 13 will prove lucky for us..."

"The above mentioned confirms our persistence in the realization of our objectives although we are aware of the challenges that stand on that way. We are decisive in the realization of the values in which we believe, one of the most significant among which is our NATO membership," PM Gruevski said.