The op-ed is available at NATO website and it was originally published by Sloboden Pecat and Koha Macedonia.

North Macedonia is now a full member of NATO, the 30th member of our Alliance. From Monday, North Macedonia’s flag will fly proudly alongside those of the other 29 members.  This is indeed a moment of celebration, a moment we have all been looking forward to for many years. The road to membership has been long and challenging, but with courage and determination, you have done it.

This is great news at a difficult time, when the whole world is faced with fighting the COVID-19 pandemic. Every nation is taking unprecedented measures to limit the spread of the virus, save lives and limit the impact on our economies. This challenge is too great for any single nation alone. So it is more important than ever that our nations stand together, work together and support each other. This is the essence of transatlantic solidarity. We are stronger together.

NATO Allies are supporting each other right now. The US army has delivered essential hospital supplies to Italy. Germany and Luxembourg have taken intensive care patients from Italy and France.  Allied heavy transport aircraft have flown over two hundred tons of facemasks, protective and other much-needed medical equipment from China and South Korea to Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Romania.

In all NATO countries, our militaries are playing a vital role in national efforts, including with planning and logistics, field hospitals, the transport of patients and the disinfection of public areas. NATO has been working for many years to strengthen the resilience of Allies, including health services. North Macedonia has recently adopted NATO’s Next Generation Incident Command System and is using this to coordinate its COVID-19 activities nationwide. In fact, over the last few years, NATO has trained more than 500 first responders in North Macedonia to improve their ability to respond to major incidents such as this.

But while our immediate attention is on the global COVID-19 pandemic, other challenges have not gone away. Indeed, they are being amplified by the current crisis. Disinformation about the corona virus is widespread. Often it is part of a long-term pattern of aggressive behaviour that includes cyber-attacks and attempts to undermine the legitimacy of democratic institutions.

NATO is here to help Allies. In November last year, NATO’s new Counter-Hybrid Support Team went to the aid of Montenegro, at their government’s request. This team, which stayed in Podgorica for a week, was specifically designed to help our Ally counter the wide range of so-called ‘hybrid’ attacks, a mixture of overt and covert operations, military and non-military means of aggression. This is the sort of practical assistance that NATO and Allies provide each other every day.

The security that NATO membership provides is unequalled. That security has been the foundation of transatlantic stability and prosperity for over 70 years.  Article 5 of our founding treaty states that an attack on one member is an attack on all. From now on, North Macedonia will always have the full support of 29 Allies.

NATO membership is good for North Macedonia and it is also good for NATO. Your armed forces make an active contribution to international peace and security. Your soldiers serve in Afghanistan, and they provide valuable support to our peacekeeping mission in Kosovo.

North Macedonia is already benefitting from Euro-Atlantic integration, and I welcome the European Union’s decision to invite North Macedonia and Albania to start membership talks. Foreign investment in North Macedonia after your country was formally invited to join NATO has already increased significantly. This is because your government is following the path of reform, to build a brighter future for North Macedonia. It is essential that it continues on that path to ensure future prosperity for all.

North Macedonia is now part of the NATO family, a family of thirty nations and almost one billion people. A family based on the certainty that, no matter what challenges we face, we are all stronger and safer together.

Welcome into the NATO family, North Macedonia!