Potential government changes in Macedonia won't impact commitment to NATO accession

Ceremony held in Skopje on 31 March 2003 which marked the end of NATO’s peacekeeping mission in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia; Photo: NATO

Macedonian elections held in December 2016 still haven’t produced a parliamentary majority. Two best results in these elections were achieved by coalitions VMRO-DPMNE (Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization – Democratic Party for Macedonian National Unity) with 51 seats won, and SDSM (Social Democratic Union of Macedonia) with 49 seats won. President of Macedonia Gjorge Ivanov gave the mandate for government creation to the Zoran Zaev, leader of SDSM. Before that, VMRO-DPMNE attempted to form a coalition, but the coalition talks broke down in January. Even if the leadership of the country changes, this will not impact the process of NATO integration for this country in the Western Balkans.

On the official website of the Republic of Macedonia Ministry of Defense, membership in NATO is regarded as a permanent commitment. The Republic of Macedonia joined NATO’s Partnership for Peace in 1995 and the Membership Action Plan in 1999. Official Stance of NATO towards this country can be summarised with: Macedonia has to make progress on reforms and find a mutually acceptable solution with Greece to the issue over its name before it can be invited to join NATO.

In VMRO-DPMNE and in the SDSM party programmes, EU and NATO accession are seen as „strategic priority“ and as non-negotiable. This stance is usually justified with perceived political stability, security and economic benefit that NATO membership will provide to any of its member-states. Other minority parties in the parliament, consisting of Albanian political organisations, strongly approve of this stance. Even though both largest parties from time to time accuse each other of trying to find „strategic alternative“ i.e. in one way or another cooperate with Russia, considering the strategic determination for NATO membership they will consistently follow the accession processes, and approve initiatives and goals of this organisation. The important thing to mention is that opinion polls in Macedonia show great (albeit decreasing) support for Euro-Atlantic integration, which means that any catch-all political organisation by definition has to make a commitment to this foreign policy course.

NATO’s secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg warned Macedonia in 2016 „not to let its political crisis wreck its hopes of joining the Atlantic alliance“. This comes as a warning, but also as a promise that the NATO is also interested in Macedonia’s membership, but with their foreign and domestic affairs problems solved.

M.A.


This article has been produced with the support of the Balkan Trust for Democracy. The content of this article and the opinions expressed herein are the sole responsibility of the portal European Western Balkans and in no way reflect the views and opinions of the Balkan Trust for Democracy nor the German Marshall Fund of the United States.