29 Nato member states signed the accession protocol with the future North Macedonia on February 6, in a historic move for the tiny Balkan country which has waited for membership for more than a decade.
This was enabled after Macedonia signed a historic deal with Greece to solve the decades long name dispute in June last year, and particularly after the Greek parliament ratified the deal despite the strong opposition. Under the deal, the country will become North Macedonia and this will be effective as soon as Greece ratifies the accession protocol which is expected on February 8.
Before the deal, Greece had obstructed Macedonia's accession to Nato and the EU as it is opposed to the use of the name Macedonia because it has a province in the north with the same name. Greece blocked Macedonia from becoming a Nato member during the Bucharest summit back in 2008.
"Today is a historic day for your country," Nato secretary general Jens Stoltenberg said during the ceremony in the Nato headquarters in Brussels.
Stoltenberg said that Skopje’s accession would bring more security and stability to the region. He praised the country for its participation in the Nato-led peacekeeping mission in Afghanistan.
“I look forward to the day when 30 flags will fly outside NATO HQ," Stoltenberg said in a tweet following the ceremony.
He invited Macedonia's Defence Minister Radmila Sekerinska to attend the next Nato meeting as an observer.
Macedonian Foreign Minister Nikola Dimitrov, who signed the protocol, pledged that Macedonia will continue with reforms in all segments, including the army, and will increase its defence spending to 2% of GDP as early as this year.
He praised the political leaders from both sides, Athens and Skopje, for achieving the name agreement, which seemed impossible. Macedonia will change its name "in a matter of days" to North Macedonia, he added.
The protocol has to be ratified by all member states before Macedonia will officially become part of the Alliance.
Until then the future North Macedonia will have a seat in Nato as an invitee.
Recently, Dimitrov survived non-confidence motion launched by the opposition, which accused him of making a “harmful” agreement with Greece.
However, Nato and EU accession are strategic priorities for both the current government and the opposition.
The move is seen as a blow to Russia, which is trying to spread its influence in the Balkan countries and hamper their attempts to join Nato. Nearby Montenegro also recently became a Nato member.