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NATO Alliance Marks North Macedonia Accession

March 30, 2020 | BY Jim Garamone , DOD News

NATO welcomed its 30th member nation as Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg presided over the ceremonial accession of North Macedonia to the alliance during a ceremony in Brussels.

Flag raising at NATO.
NATO Ceremony
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and Zoran Todorov, the charge d’affaires of North Macedonia’s delegation, watch as the flag of North Macedonia joins those of 29 other NATO nations in front of the alliance headquarters in Brussels, March 30, 2020.
Photo By: NATO photo
VIRIN: 200330-O-ZZ999-2222

"Thirty flags will now fly together, a symbol of our unity and our solidarity," Stoltenberg said during today's ceremony.

The accession comes after years of effort by the small Balkan nation. "The road to membership has been long and challenging, but with courage and determination, you have done it," the secretary general said in a commentary that appeared in North Macedonia. 

Soldiers raise a flag.
NATO Ceremony
Soldiers raise the flag of North Macedonia during a ceremony in Brussels marking that nation’s accession as NATO’s 30th member, March 30, 2020.
Photo By: NATO photo
VIRIN: 200330-O-ZZ999-3333

The secretary general called the accession "great news at a difficult time," noting that all nations are fighting the COVID-19 pandemic. The NATO nations are cooperating with each other to ensure needed supplies and expertise are where they need to be, he said. "This is the essence of trans-Atlantic solidarity," he added. "We are stronger together."

Stoltenberg noted that the U.S. Army has delivered essential hospital supplies to Italy, while Germany and Luxembourg have taken intensive-care patients from Italy and France. "Allied heavy transport aircraft have flown over 200 tons of facemasks, protective and other much-needed medical equipment from China and South Korea to Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Romania," he said.

Soldiers raise a flag.
Flag Ceremony
Soldiers raise the flag of North Macedonia during a ceremony marking the accession of that nation as NATO’s 30th member during a ceremony at the alliance’s headquarters in Brussels, March 30, 2020.
Photo By: NATO photo
VIRIN: 200330-O-ZZ999-1111A

North Macedonia's road to membership was not easy. First, the nation — which had been part of Yugoslavia — had to negotiate with NATO ally Greece over its name. The series of negotiations actually strengthened understanding between the nations, Stoltenberg said. 

"Joining NATO is good for North Macedonia," the secretary general said. "It is good for the stability of the Western Balkans, and it's good for international peace and security."