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North Macedonia ''runs'' towards NATO and EU
President Stevo Pandarovski strong political guidance and the foreign fighters threat
27-08-2019 - Last Sunday the North Macedonia President of Republic Stevo Pendarovski participated in Ohrid at the Macedonia Security Forum 2019.
As clear, the Balkan situation is of his particular interest because of the challenges that North Macedonia faces in the contemporary security environment.
There is no doubt that the key strategic security breakthrough that North Macedonia made is the invitation to join NATO that was received in July 2018.
The invitation came after decades that were marked by the turbulent 90s in which the region of former Yugoslavia was faced with bloody ethnic wars; after the dangerous conflict of 2001 that almost led the country into the abyss of inter-ethnic war; and after the long years of impasse and autocracy that only put the country further away from the Western European values and delayed its integration in NATO and the EU.
Joining NATO for the North Macedonia will mean gaining a seat and an equal vote at the NATO table. Consequently Skopje will have twenty-nine countries committed to participate at the protection and security of the little country with a population of two million of inhabitants. There is clear evidence that for the North Macedonia the security is the bedrock of prosperity and economic opportunity.
As a future full-fledged member of the Alliance, the President declared that he strongly supports North Macedonia’s active participation in the Alliance activities and operations: “North Macedonia is not looking to be just a nominal member of the Alliance, but a member country that will take care about the broader security concerns of the Alliance, and will actively support the global security”.
North Macedonia Army was present in Iraq, and is still present in Afghanistan, Lebanon, and Bosnia and Herzegovina. In addition, Skopje provides logistical assistance to the NATO KFOR operation currently under the command of the Italian Army major general D’Addario.
It is a declared intention of the North Macedonia to continue with his contribution to future missions in support of the international security and on this Skopje is planning to soon enhance our active presence in providing international security.
After the invitation to join the Alliance, North Macedonia has now entered calmer waters, but no geopolitical analyst can proclaim that the challenges are over.
Terrorism, religious extremism, illegal migration, cyber-attacks and in particular hybrid wars are a current threat for the little Balkan country and the President is aware that the most effective way to deliver against the non-traditional security threats which figure prominently on the NATO agenda, which is now the Skopje agenda, is to confront them together. Pendarovski is convinced that all sides benefit from being a part of the common endeavor of the Alliance through sharing the information and pooling the resources between the members and partner countries.
North Macedonia, according a large number of media and smart analysts, was a target of a malign influence from Russia that wanted to disrupt the will of the citizens and stop the formation of the democratic government. These hybrid threats and malign influences will remain active and Skopje needs to pull forces together and counter them. The only political message that will work in this direction is that the country will be committed to the Western values and orientation and we will prevail.
Visiting North Macedonia, the progress regarding the Euro-Atlantic integration, as well as the European prospects of the Western Balkans is evident. In the current Skopje government all members are convinced that this “dual integration“ is certainly a "win-win game“ both for the countries of the region individually and as a whole, on the one hand, and for the NATO and the European Union, on the other hand.
The President is aware of all the challenges that the European Union is facing and the debates on the EU enlargement that are currently unfolding in Europe. Geopolitical analysts in all “old continent” agree that there is a strong validity in those debates.
However, the Skopje new political decision makers are also aware of the fact that the region needs to have an European perspective. They know that the chances for European future enhance the democratic forces in the countries, influence their progress and no doubt strengthen the overall cooperation between the states, which results in the increase of the overall security in the region.
It is crystal clear that a lot depends on Skopje and on North Macedonia delivery as a country with proper reforms, rule of law, and fight against the corruption and terrorism.
The absence of significant results in the integration process will possibly reduce the enthusiasm for reforms and creates a risk for possible slowdown of reforms. The lack of EU perspectives gives voices to the possible unrealistic alternatives. The opinions occasionally voiced in the public about the possibility of pursuing "other alternatives“, "foreign policy reorientation“, "re-evaluation of priorities“ etc. obviously do not hold any ground and, moreover, no capacity for implementation.
Due to the EU fatigue for the region, other actors have increased their role in offering alternatives to the EU and Euro-Atlantic perspectives and are using their influence to discourage the progressive forces in the region that would like to see clear future of integration for the Western Balkans.
For sure, the progress in the Balkans in the last decade has been significant and obvious. From a region of conflicts, it has slowly become a region of democratic values, but all the countries in the area have to work together to solve the existing disputes and create more security and stability to counter the regional and global challenges.
Despite the undeniable achievements, gaps of security and stability in the region remain a concern. Ethnic and religious tensions are visible, mutual distrust and prejudices as well as old Balkan ghosts are still present. The potential risk for parts of western Balkans to return to instability has not yet been ruled out.
Recently, different options are being heard on the possible solutions to the already existing Balkan open issues, such as in the case between Kosovo and Serbia.
North Macedonia current presidency strongly support the efforts to find sustainable solutions to the regional issues.
At this point it is necessary to underline that it is very important to have solutions that are going to produce more regional stability, rather than open new problems. All international community has to be sure that the new initiatives for solving Balkan issues influence positively the cooperation between the states and project inter-state and intra-state stability.
As other important facts, it is necessary to remember that from the start of the Syrian armed conflict, Kosovo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and North Macedonia experienced some of the highest rates in Europe for mobilization into jihadi terrorist organizations relative to population size. A similar trend has characterized the reverse flow, where according to official data about 460 individuals from the region have returned.
By comparison the Western Balkans is currently the region with the highest concentration of returned foreign fighters terrorist (FFT) in Europe. With its 42 returnees per million nationals North Macedonia has a great problem to face. On the other hand, courts in Skopje have issued guilty verdicts against 32 foreign fighters. FFTs are a dangerous and open issue and, especially in this field, the several times requested cooperation between the Balkan states (Secret services and Polices) is more than mandatory.
Ghandi was used to say that “The future depends on what you do today” and today the North Macedonia seems to be on the right way…





Giuseppe Morabito
 
  


 
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