- Thursday, January 18, 2018 2:28 PM
Skopje, 18 January 2018 (MIA) - There is still room for more flags in front of the NATO Headquarters, Jens Stoltenberg, NATO Secretary General, said Thursday delivering an address to Parliament. NATO’s door is open to new members, he stressed.
"Watching the Montenegrin flag raised for the first time at NATO Headquarters last year was really a proud moment for me. And there is still room for more flags in front of the NATO Headquarters. Allies have been impressed by your determination and enthusiasm to join the Alliance. I want you to succeed. And NATO wants you to succeed," Stoltenberg told the MPs.
Addressing the Parliament, the NATO chief said that while it was good to be ambitious, it was also important to be realistic. "There is still much hard work to be done," he said referring to the name issue with Greece.
"I welcome the willingness of your government to resolve this issue and the resolve the government has shown. And yesterday’s meeting of negotiators under the United Nations Framework in New York was another valuable step," Stoltenberg stated.
He commended the reforms implemented by the new government under the 3-6-9 Plan and called the adoption of the language law 'a significant step.' Also, we note, Stoltenberg added, important progress on transparency, accountability, oversight of the intelligence and security agencies, and judicial reform and we hope to see similar progress on electoral reform, reform of the media and greater transparency in government finances.
The NATO head underscored that the role of the opposition was crucial in 'scrutinizing and questioning the government' all the while commending the role of the civil society in the country. Among other things, Stoltenberg said the NATO allies were impressed by the progress made made as regards the country's relations with Bulgaria, after the ratification of the friendship treaty, and urged Macedonia to continue to work to improve relations with other countries in the region.
For NATO, being a military alliance, it is also crucial to see Macedonia investing in its defence, according to him.
"All NATO Allies have committed to increase defence spending to 2% of GDP. The Alliance wants to see this country moving in the same direction. And therefore I commend your government’s commitment to the 2% guideline," he said.
NATO’s door is open to new members, Stoltenberg noted adding that to cross the threshold required hard work. He vowed NATO would support Macedonia 'as much as we can' in improving defence education and investment and fighting corruption in the defence sector.
"Nine months ago, you were approaching the edge of a cliff. Since then you have turned a country of potential instability into a country of real opportunity. Today, the door is open. To reform. To better transatlantic relations and to better relations with your neighbours. To the Euro-Atlantic community and NATO. And to a new, brighter, and more prosperous future. There is still work to do," concluded the NATO chief addressing the Parliament.
MPs of the opposition party VMRO-DPMNE returned to Parliament today only to hear Stoltenberg's address, however they reiterated they wouldn't come back to the legislative body until democratic conditions were created.
After meeting with top state officials, NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg is expected to conclude his first official visit to Macedonia after holding a meeting and a joint press conference with Prime Minister Zoran Zaev. ba/14:26
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