NATO mission in Macedonia: from military to civilian January 13, 2011Posted by Yilan in Macedonia, NATO.
Tags: Macedonia, NATO
Its security tasks in Macedonia done, the Alliance will now focus on assisting the defence reform process.
Defence Minister Zoran Konjanovski (right) accepts the keys to Camp Able Sentry at a ceremony in Skopje.
NATO troops have left Macedonia with the change of the Alliance’s mission there from military to civilian. The move is being widely heralded as a sign that the country is secure and ready for NATO membership.
At a December 28th ceremony, NATO’s military representative to Macedonia, General David Humar, symbolically presented the keys of Camp Able Sentry — located at Skopje’s Alexander the Great Airport — to Defence Minister Zoran Konjanovski.
“This act is a confirmation that Macedonia significantly advanced its defence and security. I hope that in 2011 the name issue will be solved and you will become a full-fledged member of NATO,” Humar said.
The change in mission means that the Alliance will now focus mostly on assisting reforms in the Macedonian military. The remaining NATO personnel are now located at the defence ministry.
A spokesman for the ministry, Sasko Dimov, told SETimes that co-operation over the past 11 years has been based on a multitude of joint projects and a dedication to implementing reforms.
“This year we received excellent marks from NATO [Headquarters] in Brussels for the achieved reforms but also from the defence ministers [of countries] with which Macedonia continually co-operates,” he said. “Within that context is NATO’s troop withdrawal from its headquarters in Skopje. It speaks clearly about our readiness to become immediately a full-fledged member of the Alliance.”
Konjanovski said the Macedonia-NATO partnership has now been raised to a higher level, one significant to the stability and security of the entire region. He added that “the principled partnership between Macedonia and NATO was proven not only here but also in Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan”.
“We are always there when the Alliance needs us,” he added.
Over the years, public reaction to NATO’s presence was generally positive. “Our country went through a more or less turbulent period and the co-operation with NATO represented a strong partnership that greatly contributed to strengthening the peace, stability and security in Macedonia and the entire region,” Skopje resident Ljuben Lazarovski, 64, toldSETimes.
Military analyst Petar Shkrbina says the NATO troop withdrawal from Macedonia is a logical consequence to developments in Kosovo, where 3,000 troops are expected to leave in March.
“NATO’s rear headquarters in Macedonia was tasked with securing logistical support for the KFOR troops in Kosovo, but since EULEX took over that mission, there is no more need for activities by the Alliance’s military team in Skopje,” Shkrbina told SETimes. “The advisory NATO team, which will remain in Macedonia, will work on reforms, but that is a completely different organisational unit, apart from the military mission thus far.”
“All this is a positive signal that the region is stable,” he added.