North Macedonia, as the country will be officially called as of next Friday, signed the NATO membership protocol with 29 member states in the Alliances’ headquarters in Brussels, paving the way to become its 30th member, the Beta news agency reported on Wednesday.
Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev and Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras agreed on the change of Macedonia’s name into the Republic of North Macedonia last June, removing the obstacle which prevented Skopje from joining Euro-Atlantic organisations for almost three decades after the country had seceded from former Yugoslavia.
Greece objected the name, saying it implied Skopje’s territorial claim against the Greek province of the same name.
The formal change of the country's name is expected to come into force on February 8.
Skopje will have to wait for the full membership until all 29 member states’ parliaments ratify the Protocol. In the meantime, Macedonia will take part in NATO meetings but without a voting right.
Zaev said on Wednesday that “sitting at the same table with NATO, Macedonia secures lasting stability and prosperity,” adding the country’s progress and development were unstoppable now.
The foreign ministers usually sign the Protocol with future members, but in the case of Macedonia, the ambassadors of the member countries put their signatures on the document to speed up the country’s integration with NATO.
Macedonian Foreign Minister Nikola Dimitrov and the NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg attended the signing, with the Alliance’s chief describing it as “a historic day.”
Today is a historic day. All#NATOAllies have signed the Accession Protocol with , which will bring more security & prosperity to the whole region. I look forward to the day when 30 flags will fly outside NATO HQ.pic.twitter.com/trPtvsn3MD— Jens Stoltenberg (@jensstoltenberg)February 6, 2019
With Macedonia in NATO, Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina remain the only countries once part of the former Yugoslav federation that are currently outside the Alliance.