On October 8, the NATO Council of Canada had the honour of welcoming the Hon. Zoran Konjanovski, Minister of Defence for the Republic of Macedonia, and his delegation to the NCC to discuss Macedonia’s security interests and prospective membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
Following formal greetings, Mr. Konjanovski began the discussion by asserting that Macedonia respects Canada as a county which bases its governance on the principles of freedom, fairness and equality. Although Canada and Macedonia are a world apart in geographic terms, these shared values and understandings provide a important link between our two countries. In recent year, this relationship has been strengthened further by Canada’s adamant support for Macedonia in its bid to become a member of NATO. During Mr. Konjanovski’s meeting earlier that week, Canada’s Defence Minister Peter MacKay reassured him and his delegation that Canada remains committed to fostering stronger relations and supporting Macedonia’s inclusion in the Alliance.
On the issue of NATO membership, Mr. Konjanovski declared that this remains Macedonia’s most pressing foreign policy objective. He stated that he regrets Greece’s role in undermining this ambition, but emphasized Macedonia’s willingness to engage in constructive dialogue with Greece and work towards an amicable solution. Unfortunately, the timetable for renewed consultation has been delayed due in part to Greek elections scheduled for this November. The hope is that once the dust has settled, Greek officials will choose to extend the olive branch and renew these negotiations in good faith. In the meantime, Macedonia will continue to support NATO operations in Afghanistan and elsewhere, and promote the values enshrined in the Washington Treaty.
One of the ways in which Macedonia has bolstered its case for NATO membership is by building a model of governance based on multi-ethnic democracy. Mr. Konjanovski stressed the fact that Macedonia has worked tirelessly to ensure that its multi-ethnic character is preserved – and in fact embraced – through reform of the constitution and other government structures. This progressive agenda is of the utmost importance to lasting stability in the Balkans, as the Macedonia model could provide a bulwark against simmering ethnic nationalism in the region. According to Mr. Konjanovski, uni-nationalistic tendencies are an archaic yet lasting source of insecurity in the Balkans. The only way forward is to recognize and defend this region’s multi-ethnic/religious character through tolerance, acceptance and reconciliation. After all, Mr. Konjanovski proclaimed, it is the Balkans’ diversity that makes this region so unique and so beautiful.
Mr. Kojanovski concluded by stating that he is hopeful that Canada, among other allies, will bring up Macedonia’s stalled NATO membership during the Lisbon Summit. Many of the key security issues that are on the agenda for this conference – including terrorism, organized crime, illicit narcotics trafficking and radical Islamism – are consistent with Macedonia’s defence interests. As a state which sits in the gateway between East and West, Mr. Konjanovski believes that Macedonia could play a valuable role in addressing these critical security threats. Despite the many obstacles that remain related to the Greek-Macedonian dispute, Mr. Konjanovski remains optimistic that in the near future, Macedonia will do just that.
Research Analyst, NATO Council of Canada