A once in a generation opportunity awaits Macedonia as the country considers NATO and European Union membership, concluded a panel discussing the country’s recent referendum vote. The event, organized by the Atlantic Council, took place on October 22 at its Washington, D.C. headquarters.
VOA Macedonian Service Chief, Lilica Kitanovska, former NATO Secretary General, the Rt. Hon. Lord Robertson of Port Ellen, and former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense and nonresident Senior Fellow of the Atlantic Council, Dr. Michael Carpenter, comprised the panel titled “Completing Europe: Will Macedonia Seize its Moment?” moderated by the Council’s Executive Vice President Damon Wilson.
In a standing room only event, Kitanovska related the latest developments on the ground, as reported daily by VOA journalists in the region. She also put into context last Friday’s vote in the Macedonian parliament, making it clear that it was only the first step in a lengthy process of completing required constitutional changes to rename the country “North Macedonia.”
All panelists addressed the continuous efforts by regional powers to influence the political process in the country and stressed that the recently established Prespa agreement with Greece to resolve the long-standing dispute about Macedonia’s name is “as good as it will get” for decades, as noted by Dr. Carpenter. Leaders of the two nations reached an agreement in June to change the country’s name to “North Macedonia,” for Athens dropping its opposition to Macedonia’s accession to NATO and the European Union.
“It’s not about guarantees, but about shaping the future,” noted Lord Robertson. He further reminded the audience that, given NATO’s unanimity policy, “there can be no NATO membership for Macedonia if Greece does not agree.”
Kitanovska said Macedonian officials have approximately one month to conclude the deal in parliament. Nevertheless, significant challenges still remain on the Greek side of the equation before reaching a final deal.