Saturday, November 17, 2007

NATO Urges More Macedonia Reforms

A senior NATO official has told Macedonian leaders that the next few months are going to be decisive for Macedonia’s NATO membership bid.

Martin Erdman, the Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs and Security Policy of NATO, told Macedonia’s President Branko Crvenkovski on Friday that, “additional positive signals concerning the fulfilment of the criteria for receiving an invitation for NATO membership”, are expected from the country.

During his meeting with Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski on Thursday, Erdman listed the key requirements Macedonia has to fulfil before it can secure an invitation to join NATO.

Macedonia is hoping, along with Albania and Croatia, to receive a formal invitation at NATO’s summit in Bucharest, due in April 2008.

The criteria Erdman listed included the sustainability of Macedonia’s reform process and the implementation of the 2001 Ohrid Agreement that brought to an end a six-month confrontation between Macedonian security forces and armed ethnic Albanian groups.

He also called for improved inter-ethnic relations, a sustainable dialogue and cooperation between the political parties and long-term political stability.

Erdman is leading a NATO team, which is evaluating Macedonia’s progress on its path to the Alliance.

“We need to stop wasting precious time and speed up the reform process”, Crvenkovski told media on Friday, urging to all political parties to reach consensus over the crucial requirements of NATO and subsequent EU membership.

Erdman praised Macedonia’s, “successful regional policy”, and the, “economic breakthrough”, that the country was making, adding that this, too, would be taken into consideration.

Asked to comment about US concern that Macedonia is backsliding on reform, a point made by Victoria Nuland, the US Ambassador to NATO, Erdman said that there were no rankings among the three NATO applicants.

In a statement on November 8, Nuland said, “My president wants to see you in NATO, but unfortunately from the three candidate countries you are currently holding third place”.

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