Counterspin: North Macedonia Would Not Have Joined NATO Had It Not Met the Conditions
Contrary to what Jakimovski spins, that “the country would have been brought into NATO by force, and without changing its name”, the determination for Euro-Atlantic integration of any country is an independent and sole decision of the country. Facts and figures also confirm this – 30 countries are members of the NATO Alliance, and there are countries from the European world that are not part of it. So far, historically, there is no known case of a country being “forced into NATO” without complying with the Alliance’s recommendations and requirements.
Author: Meri Jordanovska
In an interview on the show “Samo vistina” on July 5 of this year, Stevčo Jakimovski, mayor of the Municipality of Karpoš, speaking about the French proposal, referred to other issues as well, in which spins can be observed. Jakimovski published a small segment of the interview on his Facebook profile, where he says, among other things, that Macedonia would be brought into NATO by force, and without changing the name, because, according to him, “their stake is greater than ours”.
Spin: Does it now become clear to you why Macedonia had to join NATO? Look at what happened in Ukraine. Even if we did not want to enter, they would have forced us in, they would have brought us in, and we would not have had to change our name or anything. In Europe, they do not want to leave empty space. They want to keep us under control, if we reject the proposal, they have a bigger problem than we do. They are afraid that the East will come through us here in Macedonia. They are afraid of other influences here, they don’t want to leave even an inch of Europe where Russia, China or the Arab world, could possibly penetrate here with investments in Macedonia and that is their problem and their fear. In addition, we should understand that as we are afraid, so are they, but their stake is greater than ours, said Jakimovski.
Counterspin: The determination for Euro-Atlantic integration of any country is an independent and sole decision of each country. Facts and figures confirm this – 30 countries are members of the NATO Alliance, and there are countries from the European world that are not part of the Alliance. So far, historically, there is no known case of a country being “forced into NATO” without complying with the Alliance’s recommendations and requirements.
Thus, what Jakimovski says does not correspond to reality, because there are strictly defined regulations for entering the NATO Alliance. Notably, NATO hahas a Membership Action Plan, which helps aspiring countries prepare for membership and meet key requirements by providing practical advice and targeted assistance.
The determination for Euro-Atlantic integration of the Republic of North Macedonia does not date from yesterday or today, but from the distant year 1993, when the Assembly adopted a Resolution, in which the foreign political priorities of the country are defined, namely membership in NATO and the EU. If, as Jakimovski says, our stake was smaller and theirs (meaning the NATO Alliance and the EU) bigger, then our membership in NATO would have happened much sooner. However, the country’s path to NATO membership was rather difficult, primarily because of the dispute with Greece over the name. If the country’s path was so open to joining NATO, then the dispute would not even exist.
However, the dispute was real, exhausting and protracted. In the final Declaration from the NATO Summit in Bucharest in 2008, the Alliance decided that the country should receive an invitation to membership after the resolution of the name dispute with Greece. Within the declarations of the following NATO Summits (Lisbon 2010, Chicago 2012, Wales 2014 and Warsaw 2016), the wording from Bucharest was repeated that the Alliance would extend an invitation for NATO membership immediately after reaching a mutually acceptable solution for the name within the UN.
At the NATO Summit in Brussels, in 2018, at a meeting at the level of heads of state and government, a decision was made to invite the Republic of North Macedonia to start accession talks for membership in the Alliance.
The following year, 2019, Macedonia expressed the readiness and ability of the country to accept and respect the obligations and commitments for the country’s membership in NATO, contained in the Washington Agreement and the NATO Enlargement Study from 1995, as well as the desire to receive an invitation to join the NATO.
On February 6, 2019, at the NATO headquarters in Brussels, the representatives of 29 NATO member countries signed the Accession Protocol for the membership of the Republic of North Macedonia in the Alliance, after which the procedure for ratification of the Accession Protocol by all 29 members of the Alliance began. The procedure for ratification of the Accession Protocol was finalized on March 19, 2020, when the Ambassador of the Kingdom of Spain in Washington, D.C., handed over the instrument of ratification of the Washington Treaty, thus completing the third and final stage of the accession process.
This practically means that the process for membership in NATO lasted for 25 years, following the expressed desire and readiness of the Republic of North Macedonia. The list of countries that are not members of the Alliance also shows that membership in NATO is not forced.
Serbia, which is our neighbor and is a much larger and strategically stronger country, is not a member of NATO and clearly expresses its position that it does not want to be. It has never been reported that anyone is trying to force Serbia to become a member. In his column for Balkan Insight, Oleg Chupryna, a Ukrainian PhD candidate at the Center for European and Eurasian Studies at the Department of Sociology at the University of Maynooth, Ireland, refers to exactly this part – Serbia has aspirations for membership in the European Union but does not want to be a NATO member.
Recent polls in Serbia, for example, indicate a strong majority holding anti-Western views very similar to those dominant in Russia itself; about 70 percent of Serbs believe that NATO is a threat to European security. This is despite the fact that the European Union, with most of its members also part of NATO, is by far Serbia’s largest trading partner [62 percent of all trade], investor [67 percent of all foreign investment] and donor. With around 300 million euros in non-refundable aid, Serbia is among the top three recipients of money transfers from the EU, according to Cuprina’s analysis.
Austria also does not intend to join NATO and maintains a neutral position, and in the conducted polls, 75 percent of respondents in Austria declare themselves neutral when it comes to NATO or Russia. By announcing their intention to join the NATO defence alliance, Finland and Sweden have abandoned decades, or rather centuries, of neutrality, but Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer has said that Austria has no intention of following their example.
He reiterated this in April, shortly before he travelled to Moscow to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin to end the invasion of neighboring Ukraine, saying: “Austria was neutral, Austria is neutral and Austria will remain neutral.”
And, after this, the dilemma of whether some countries, such as ours, would be forced into NATO, even without changing the name and that “they need us more than they need us”, disappears. The benefits of membership in the NATO Alliance are more than clear. For example, the research “Economic benefits and challenges of NATO membership” is aimed at determining the economic effects of joining NATO. For this purpose, in 2019 a comparative analysis of Albania, Croatia, Montenegro, Bulgaria, Romania and Macedonia was prepared, to determine the budgetary implications, the effect on GDP and foreign direct investments (FDI), as well as indicators relating to the good governance.
According to the analyzes of indicators from the World Bank and the existing economic literature, good governance is increasing in the surveyed member states and this has a positive effect on the economy. In terms of GDP, there is an average increase of 90% in the period of five years after the accession to NATO, compared to the period of five years before the accession to NATO for the analyzed countries, and an average increase of FDI by as much as 292%. However, it cannot be claimed that these positive changes are a direct consequence of joining NATO, because at the same time the countries are going through integration processes in the European Union and other strengthened processes of structural reforms. However, the existence of a correlation between these positive changes and membership in NATO is encouraging for a potential member country like Macedonia, the analysis states.
Thus, the question is not who needs it more, as Jakimovski is trying to spin but to weigh the benefits and what would be lost if the country did not become a member of NATO.
It is a fact that the great powers want to have as many states as possible on their side, but it is also a fact that every member state benefits from that membership. However, it is untrue what Jakimovski spins, that a country would be forced to take sides by force, given that we have countless examples of countries far more powerful than N. Macedonia, and choose to remain neutral.