North Macedonia on Friday officially became the 30th member of the NATO military alliance.
“North Macedonia is now part of the NATO family, a family of 30 nations and almost 1 billion people. A family based on the certainty that, no matter what challenges we face, we are all stronger and safer together,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said in a statement.
North Macedonia’s flag will be raised alongside those of the other 29 member countries at NATO headquarters in Brussels and two other commands simultaneously on Monday.
Given the impact of the coronavirus around the world, Macedonian President Stevo Pendarovski said “we cannot rejoice and mark the event as it should (be marked)… But, this is a historic success that after three decades of independence, finally confirms Macedonian security and guarantees our future. Congratulations to all of you! We deserve it!”
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the country’s membership “will support greater integration, democratic reform, trade, security, and stability across the region. North Macedonia’s accession also reaffirms to other aspirants that NATO’s door remains open to those countries willing and able to make the reforms necessary to meet NATO’s high standards, and to accept the responsibilities as well as benefits of membership.”
It marks the end of a long quest for the former Yugoslav republic. Joining NATO and the European Union has been a priority for its leaders, but a dispute with neighboring Greece over the country’s name stalled progress for more than two decades.
North Macedonia previously was known as Macedonia, a name it shared with a Greek province. Under a 2017 deal with Athens, the country changed its name and Greece agreed to drop objections to its NATO and eventual EU membership.
It’s been a big week for North Macedonia. On Thursday, European Union leaders gave the small Balkans country the green light to begin EU membership talks.