SKOPJE, Macedonia: A senior U.S. defense envoy said Macedonia needed to speed up reforms required to become a full NATO member in a new enlargement round expected next year.
"It is apparent that Macedonia has made impressive strides in defense reform and modernization," Daniel Fata, the U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense, said after meeting Defense Minister Lazar Elenovski.
But he added that "not only defense, but every other aspect of reform must be completed" toward that goal. "There have to be democratic, political, economic and military reforms and all that is part of the package of issues to be reviewed."
The U.S. Congress recently sent legislation to President George W. Bush that endorses expansion of NATO to include three more Balkan countries and two former Soviet republics: Albania, Macedonia and Croatia, as well as Georgia and Ukraine.
Macedonia, Croatia and Albania have been working toward joining the alliance with Membership Action Plans since 2002.
"We have spent a considerable amount of resources working with all three ... We are here to talk with Macedonia on how else we can help them to have the best possible candidacy when the allies get together in 2008," Fata said.