Membership in NATO will Create Much More Conducive Environment

Interview with Colonel Zoran Jankovič, Chief of the NATO Liaison Office Skopje

We are so happy we had the opportunity to conduct an interview with the Nato representative to Northern Macedonia. We would like to express our great thankfulness to Mr. Zoran Jankovič for his exquisite collaboration.

Research shows that among young people in Macedonia the interest in joining NATO is very high; much higher than in the neighboring countries. What is the reason for this?

Colonel Zoran Jankovic, Chief NLO Skopje

Indeed, since much early on, the support for the membership of the country in NATO has been quite significant, ranging from never below 50% to over 80% of the overall population. The support has been especially high among young people. One of the reasons for this is the almost consensual political support. All relevant parties since independence have supported and, moreover, pursued this priority foreign policy objective of the country, along with the EU membership. Their political leaders, themselves mainly relatively young, in their public addresses have used a narrative by which they have raised the awareness of NATO and of the benefits of membership in it. A number of NGOs active in the country have also contributed to better familiarization with NATO. The NATO Public Diplomacy Division has supported projects of NGOs for promoting NATO. The NATO Liaison Office Skopje, with its presence in the country, not only in Skopje, but through organizing public diplomacy and public relations activities in the towns across the country has also contributed to bringing NATO closer to the people, especially to the youth. But, the young people, themselves, in their quest for knowledge and in seeking windows of opportunity for their future have been active in learning about the Alliance through the media nowadays through using the new technology such as internet.

What are the advantages that young people will have regarding NATO membership of their countries?

North Macedonia has participated in the NATO PfP Program for many years. Even as a partner the country and its people have felt some of the advantages of membership. Currently, the country has the status of invitee and already some of the benefits, such as increased foreign investments, have materialized. With full-fledged membership, the people, especially the young ones, will enjoy all the advantages as the other members. One political advantage will be that they will live in a country which will be constantly improving good governance through further developing its democratic institutions. They will live in a country of much improved both domestic and regional security environment, including also in regards to managing crisis. The improved overall security picture will result in better economic prospects for the country as the number and volume of foreign investments will increase exponentially, as was the case with all previous new members, which means better employment opportunities for the young. Moreover, the young ones will be able to seek employment across NATO. Membership in NATO will create much more conducive environment also for interaction and exchange with with youngsters in the other member states. The advantages for all people, and especially for the young ones, are numerous. I have mentioned only some of them.

What was your first impression of the young people here when you arrived in Northern Macedonia for the first time?

The young people in North Macedonia are not much different from the young people in Slovenia or any other NATO or EU member state. They share more or less the same interests, which is to live in a secure, peaceful, and democratic environment that will be conducive to their personal well-being and development. Most of those I have met so far have impressed me as intelligent, well-educated, well-behaved young individuals eager to learn more about the world they live in, and enthusiastic about changing it for the better. As I said, they will fit perfectly with their NATO and EU counterparts.

Currently our country is waiting for the ratification of our membership. Some young people already appear to be skeptical. What advice would you give the young people – should they have more patience?

The process of ratification of the NATO Accession Protocol is coming along very well. From the experience with the other former new members this process usually lasts between one and one and a half year. In the case of North Macedonia we have experienced a record high number of ratifications (18 thus far) within only four months. This has probably led some of the political leaders to believe that the whole process can and will be completed by the December 2019 meeting of the NATO leaders in London. This way they have unnecessarily raised the expectations. Yet, the process is transpiring as expected although it is beyond the control of NATO as it is dependent on the work dynamics and the proscribed procedures in each individual member state. Moreover, ratification in the national parliament is not enough. Needed usually also is endorsement by the head of state and then filing of the instrument of ratification with the US State Department which is the depository for the North Atlantic Treaty. But there is no reason for being skeptical. Each of the NATO member state singed in February the Accession Protocol and it is not to be expected that any would withdraw itself from that position.

People often seem to confuse aspects of NATO and EU membership respectively. What are the biggest misconceptions people have?

People confuse aspects of NATO and EU membership because however different these two international institutions are, they share the same values. The biggest misconception about NATO is that it is merely a military alliance. NATO is primarily a political organization, a unique community of values, committed to the principles of democracy, individual liberty, and the rule of law. The political leaders of its member states have always agreed on the core mission of the member states, which is to defend each other, to preserve the peace and protect the freedom and values. This is being done primarily through political and diplomatic activities. Military measures a taken as a last resort to defend and never to attack.

Interview by Igor Pop Trajkov
The last question is by the VOICES magazine
Photo – courtesy of the NATO Liaison Office in Skopje

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