SKOPJE, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia* - The NATO Secretary General wrapped up a two-day visit to Skopje on Sept. 6, which focused on the country’s path toward NATO membership.
Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, announced at the Brussels Summit in July that Allied leaders decided to invite the government in Skopje to begin accession talks with the Alliance, which have now begun.
The visit -- the Secretary General’s second to the capital this year -- marked an opportunity to highlight the benefits of NATO accession, as well as progress in the reforms undertaken by Skopje. It was also an opportunity for the authorities to brief the Secretary General on their preparations for the upcoming referendum on the historic name agreement with Greece.
Speaking alongside Prime Minister Zoran Zaev, Stoltenberg stated, "NATO’s door is open, but only the people of this country can decide to walk through it. So your future is in your hands.” He underlined that there would be "no way” for the country to join NATO without implementing the name agreement, calling it an "once-in-a-lifetime” opportunity.
On Wednesday, Stoltenberg had a working dinner with Prime Minister Zaev and members of his cabinet. On Thursday, the Secretary General met with President Gjorge Ivanov, as well as the President of the Parliament, Talat Xhaferi, and the Leader of the Opposition Hristijan Mickoski. He also met with the new Committee for NATO Integration, which includes Prime Minister Zaev, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defence Radmila Šekerinska, Foreign Minister Nikola Dimitrov, and other ministers and senior officials.
Stoltenberg also visited Stajkovci village – where soldiers and equipment from NATO’s Kosovo Force mission helped to clear roads and move debris following devastating floods in 2016. Later, the Secretary General visited the Ilinden barracks and thanked the armed forces for their service and contributions to NATO deployments. He also took part in a ceremony to name a street in Skopje after his father Thorvald Stoltenberg, who coordinated Norwegian assistance to the capital after a devastating earthquake in 1963.
* Turkey recognizes the Republic of Macedonia with its constitutional name
Story by NLO Skopje