NATO invites Macedonia to join the defence alliance

Brussels -By Helen Maguire - NATO leaders have issued a formal invitation for Macedonia to join the alliance after resolving a dispute with neighbouring Greece over its name, during a summit in Brussels on Wednesday.

Last month, Skopje and Athens settled a decades-old dispute by agreeing that Greece's northern neighbour will go by the name "Republic of Northern Macedonia."
The breakthrough has prompted Athens to lift its opposition to Macedonia joining NATO, of which it is a member.
"We welcome the historic agreement between Athens and Skopje on the solution of the name issue," NATO leaders said in their joint summit statement. "In line with our policy, we have decided to invite the government in Skopje to begin accession talks to join our alliance."
But for Macedonia to join, it must still approve the deal with Greece in a referendum and constitutionally change its name. Only after that will the Greek parliament ratify the deal and Macedonia's membership in NATO.
Nationalists in both countries vehemently oppose the deal.
Skopje's coordinator for accession to NATO, Stevo Pendarovski, highlighted the deal with Greece as the crucial additional requirement.
"It will not be enough to meet the military-technical and legal conditions which are laid out to every aspiring member, but within the next four to six months we must also complete the ratification procedure with a referendum and constitutional changes," he said.
Since 1991, when Macedonia emerged as a sovereign state from disintegrating Yugoslavia, Athens has accused it of attempting to steal the Hellenic legacy of the Greek province of the same name and even of aspirations toward Greek-Macedonian territory.

Wednesday, July 11th 2018
By Helen Maguire

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