Welcome Remarks by Ambassador Gillian Milovanovic
Skopje, Republic of Macedonia
June 12, 2007
Mr. Prime Minister, Mr. Speaker, Minister Milososki, Mr. Chairman, Brigadier Durance, distinguished parliamentarians, ladies and gentlemen –
It is a pleasure to join you this morning for the opening of this conference on NATO integration and security challenges. I am especially pleased to welcome members of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly delegations from Albania, Croatia, and Macedonia, as well as the national Parliamentary Defense and Security Committees of those three countries.
Albania, Croatia and Macedonia have accomplished a great deal since they signed the Adriatic Charter in Tirana in May 2003. They have much to be proud of, and we should recognize them for their efforts. As a statesman from this region has recently said: “we are not perfect, but we are good and are trying to be better.” That is a good self-assessment, and it contains within it the blueprint for the way ahead.
The Adriatic Charter was conceived in the spirit of the 1998 U.S.-Baltic Charter, which successfully boosted the NATO candidacies of the three Baltic state signatories. I myself had the privilege of participating in the drafting and signing of the Baltic Charter, and later worked with the partners on its implementation. I know from personal experience how useful that Charter proved to be on the road to NATO, and I see the Adriatic Charter in the same light.
President Bush welcomed the A-3 initiative as a strong contribution toward his vision of a Europe whole, free, and at peace. Certainly, we have seen the A-3 countries help to realize that vision. Whether through their joint training exercises, their cooperation in standing up the joint A-3 medical team that deployed to Afghanistan, or through their support for the Ahtisaari plan for resolving Kosovo’s status, the A-3 members have been active contributors to regional stability in the Balkans.
In this process, the A-3 countries have worked, both singly and jointly, through the MAP process to strengthen their NATO candidacies.
The first article of the Adriatic Charter commits the A-3 countries to intensify domestic reforms that enhance the security, prosperity, and stability of the region. Meeting with the A-3 Prime Ministers in Tirana on June 10, President Bush underscored to the aspirants the importance of implementing the reforms necessary for membership.
In the case of Macedonia, we are working shoulder-to-shoulder with the government to support its efforts to implement those reforms. We are supporting efforts to enhance results-oriented political dialogue, to accelerate and deepen implementation of the Ohrid Framework Agreement, and to combat organized crime and corruption.
Together with our international partners, we are supporting the Government of Macedonia’s defense reforms, efforts to strengthen rule of law and judicial institutions, and plans to boost economic growth and development. We share Macedonia’s aspirations and values and we hope to see Macedonia, with its fellow A-3 members, become the strongest possible candidates for NATO membership invitations in 2008 in Bucharest.
In order to reach that objective – a NATO invitation in 2008 – it is essential for aspirant countries to remain focused on their NATO-related reform agendas. They must prioritize legislative initiatives and government programs. The must ensure they are not distracted by second-order priorities that might win them short-term popular support, but cost them precious time and resources as 2008 approaches.
Political leaders must build a national consensus around NATO membership that leads them to set aside their partisan interests for the greater good. They must demonstrate, in both the legislative and executive branches, that they are capable of joining forces to achieve a common goal that will benefit the successful aspirants and bolster stability in the region.
They should strive to demonstrate civility in word and deed when they disagree with opponents in the political arena. They need not shy away from political battles, but they should treat their opponents and their institutions with the dignity and respect that will earn the country a reputation for political maturityin Brussels, in Washington, and in other NATO capitals.
Let me cite some recent remarks of President Bush. He made them in Tirana, Albania, but they clearly apply to each A-3 aspirant country:
“The politicians have got to work together now to meet the standards. They’ve got to set aside political differences and focus on what’s right for Albania. If the Albanian people want to join NATO, then the politicians have got to work to meet the standards.”
NATO is a desired goal in each A-3 country. In Macedonia and Albania, roughly 90% of the public believes in the security benefits that NATO membership will bring, and in the prosperity that follows when security is guaranteed. They see NATO membership as a necessary element of a better future, and as an important milestone on their journey to membership in the European Union. They demand of their leaders the political consensus that will lead the way to a NATO summit in 2008 at which the Alliance will extend invitations to those who meet its performance standards.
So in closing I leave you — the representatives of a range of political parties — with two questions:
–Is such a national political consensus possible?
–And, if so, are you willing to work to achieve it?
I believe that I know the answers to those questions. I am confident you will confirm this through your words, your deeds and your commitment to promoting the greater good, over narrow partisan advantage.