North Macedonia became a full member of the Alliance on March 27, 2020.
The accession of a country with a small army and a population of two million is rather symbolic for the Alliance. As a member, North Macedonia can act as a stabilizing element in the Balkans, especially for Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina or Kosovo, whose cooperation with the Euro-Atlantic institutions has not yet been completed. For domestic supporters, joining the Alliance is perceived as a possible reduction of the Russian influence in the republic. Critics, meanwhile, fear that the membership comes with major costs and claim that it would involve Macedonia more deeply in the dispute between Russia and the West.
Although Skopje joined the NATO program Partnership for Peace in 1995 and became a European Union candidate a decade later, its perspective of joining these organisations was bleak, due to long-standing disputes over the name of a country with neighbouring Greece. The situation shifted in June 2018 when the country changed its name from Macedonia to North Macedonia by signing the Prespa agreement. The new name of the country no longer coincides with the name of the neighbouring Greek region and in return, Greece stopped blocking the country’s entry into the EU and NATO.
Unlike joining the Alliance, North Macedonia’s accession to the EU is still not guaranteed. Although the EU started accession talks with Macedonia and Albania in March 2020 after France and The Netherlands eased their objections, the Prime Minister of North Macedonia, Zoran Zaev, in the meantime resigned and declared early parliamentary elections. The main rival of the Social Democrats is the right-wing opposition party VMRO DPMNE, and Zaev said he would leave to the voters what geopolitical direction of the country they would choose. The elections were scheduled for April 12, 2020 but were postponed due to coronavirus.
In the case of continued efforts to join the EU, the country will face a large number of complicated reforms, especially the judicial reform, with the prospect of becoming a member within a few years. Unlike Serbia, where interest in EU membership has declined sharply in recent years, the 83 % of the people of North Macedonia support such a move. However, as many as 22% of citizens do not believe that their country will ever join the Union.
STRATPOL Memos is a project which on a weekly basis provides a short overview of the most important selected moments of Euro-Atlantic security and related areas. Our goal is to provide brief and informative comments with short analysis putting news into a broader context.
Responsible editor Matúš Jevčák.
Author: Barbora Krasová
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