Address at the Conference of Chiefs of General Staff of the Adriatic Charter
Thursday, 09 November 2017 12:56   

5_Distinguished Chiefs of General Staff,

Distinguished participants,

Excellencies,

It is my honor to welcome you in the Republic of Macedonia, at this conference dedicated to the joint efforts for achieving the partnership aims and capabilities of NATO forces.

Today's date has a great symbolic.  On November 9, 1989, the Berlin Wall fell.  That marked the beginning of the end of the bloc division in Europe.  The European Union and NATO were ending hostilities among countries, uniting Europe.  They expanded the area of peace, stability and security on our continent.

Right after proclaiming independence, we all united around the highest strategic goals of the Republic of Macedonia – membership in NATO and the European Union.  We were aware that together we will be stronger and more successful.  Therefore, we accepted the partnership with the United States of America and, back in 2003, we became part of the Adriatic Charter whose role was to prepare the Western Balkans countries for their entry into the most successful defense alliance in history.

The road to NATO membership motivated us to transform. We successfully reformed and modernized our armies that are now actively contributing to peace and stability in crises stricken regions.

At the same time, with the Adriatic Charter we achieved regional stability through regional cooperation.  This because, without cooperation, there can be no stability or security in our region.  You, as Chiefs of General Staff, are responsible for the right orientation of your armies and development of cooperation, and thus, for the contribution towards a greater security in the region and in Europe.

The need of regional cooperation in the areas of defense and security was best shown in the dramatic moments when our region and Europe were faced with the migration and security crisis.

Distinguished participants,

Benjamin Franklin once wisely said that: We must, indeed, all hang together or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately. During the migration crisis, this saying proved to be true in our case.  While our states were acting as freelancers and dispersed, the migration wave inundated our border crossings, putting a strain on the bilateral relations between countries.

None of the countries that were and still are part of the Balkan Migration Route was able to protect itself against the threat of illegal migration.  However, when we substituted mistrust with trust and rivalry with cooperation, we succeeded in regulating and controlling illegal migration.  We succeeded in closing the corridor and protecting our states and Europe from this threat.  Our armies played a key role in this sense.

The Republic of Macedonia was the first country in Europe to declared a so-called state of crisis, faced with the threat of illegal migration, and deployed army troops at the border.  After the Paris terrorist attack, in only two days, the Army of the Republic of Macedonia successfully placed 20 kilometers of protective fence.

However, the Macedonian army achieved this because it has passed 17 NATO membership Action Plans; 27 rotations in ISAF; 6 rotations in "Resolute Support"; 22 rotations in ALTEA and 10 rotations in UNIFIL.  The migration crisis was the ultimate test for the capability of the most tested army in NATO history.

Today, the region of Balkans and Europe is facing a new security crisis where no one is safe anymore.  The time when Europe's borders were protected outside of Europe is long gone.  Territorial sovereign countries are facing new, non-territorial threats.  Although the number of inter-state conflicts is decreasing, the number of conflicts within countries is simultaneously increasing.

The route opened by refugees and migrants back in 2015, is now being used by foreign terrorist fighters.  It is estimated that at least 5600 foreign fighters from Europe have left for the battlefields in Syria and Iraq, which is 15% of the total number of ISIL figthers.  There are 300 from Austria, 450 from Belgium, 135 from Denmark, around 950 from Germany, 100 from Norway and 300 from Sweden. One third of them have already returned in their home countries in Europe.

There are around 960 people from the Balkans only. According to the latest information, 154 people are from Macedonia - 33 of them have been killed, and 80 have returned.   41 are still in Syria, 33 belonging to ISIL and 8 fighting for Al Nusra.  Around 20 people have been arrested during the police action "Cell".  237 people originate from Bosnia and Herzegovina. The biggest number of foreign fighters is from Kosovo - 317, 130 out of whom have returned.  150 people are from Albania, 13 from Montenegro and around 50 from Serbia. Many of those who have left towards the Middle East as radicals and extremists have returned to Europe as terrorists.

Because of this radicalization by foreign fighters, Europe is facing terrorist attacks committed by a second or third generation of migrants who have come to European countries.

In order to respond to this threat, it is necessary for the countries of the Adriatic group to be fully integrated in the architecture of the security system of NATO and the European Union with an unhindered access to all databases.  However, there is a challenge to this.

Esteemed participants,

The Adriatic Charter is a clear message on the NATO open doors policy.  The Charter states that "Europe cannot be truly free until the entire region of Southeast Europe is made safe..." Europe cannot be united while there are still countries from the region that have not been included in the Euro-Atlantic institutions".

The open door is a metaphorical invitation to enter the Alliance.  And yet, for almost ten years now, the Republic of Macedonia has been waiting in front of NATO's open door.

Although the Berlin Wall fell exactly 28 years ago today, NATO and the European Union appear to still be captives of the shadow of bloc divisions.

Although Macedonia fulfilled all the criteria necessary for joining NATO, it was still blocked and left on its own.  The arguments regarding this blockade of Macedonia are arguments invented during the Cold War that have no place in the project for a united, free and peaceful Europe.

With NATO, we share the same values, interests and priorities.

With NATO, we share responsibilities, tasks and duties.

We also share the same criteria.  This is why interoperability and operational capability are issues that have become obsolete.  However, we are doing this because, ever since our independence, we consider the Alliance to be our future.

We expect that NATO will remain consistent in terms of its great project, making even the last shadow of the bloc division in the Balkans and Europe fully disappear.

Thank you.
5-_

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