Distinguished Deputy Secretary General,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is my great honour and pleasure, as the new Minister of Defence of the Republic of Macedonia, to take part in this regular MAP meeting and address the achievements and challenges in the defence preparations for membership of my country to the Alliance. At the outset, I would like to thank the members of the MAP and PARP teams for their constructive cooperation with the experts of the Ministry of Defence and the Army of the Republic of Macedonia in developing the Partnership Goals 2014 package and the current Progress Report on our country within the 15th cycle of the Membership Action Plan.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The complete integration of the Republic of Macedonia to the Euro – Atlantic organization is the highest priority of my country. We will continue our dedicated stride on the path towards our fully – fledged membership. My country sharеs NATO’s values. They are important for us and therefore we are committed to provide our contribution to NATO led missions within our available capacities. As you know, the Republic of Macedonia has been providing a significant contribution to the ISAF mission in Afghanistan since 2002 and we have also provided logistic support to the KFOR in Kosovo since 1999. In my capacity as Chief of Staff, I was present when late President Trajkovski was asked about participation of my country to the ISAF mission. He did not think for a second. He immediately accepted it and since then we have had two other presidents and five different compositions of Government, including the one appointed yesterday, and all of them have supported our participation to the ISAF Mission. Our Constitution requires Parliamentary voting for each rotation. That means voting every 6 months and I am proud to report that we have never had a single vote against. Let me share with you an example of the Macedonian army contribution to ISAF and its interoperability with NATO forces. In 2010, 80 soldiers and officers from my country were fully embedded in the National Guard of Vermont that was deployed in Afghanistan. A unit of 16 soldiers, 8 were from US, 8 from Macedonia. A vehicle of 4 personnel, 2 Macedonian and 2 American. And these operations were combat operations. That was the first example of non-NATO soldiers to be embedded in US Army combat units.
Furthermore, we are also taking an active part in the EU mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina – ALTHEA and the UN mission – UNIFIL. Today, we are contributing about 3% of our land force military personnel. In specific, over 3,300 military personnel from the Army have been deployed in international operations since 2002.
The Republic of Macedonia fully supports NATO’s efforts for buidling peaceful, democratic and prosperous Afghanistan and in that spirit we are ready to give our contribution to the future mission “Resolute Support” with training and mentoring instructors in the areas of military police, communications, infantry and other areas in accordance with the needs of Afghanistan and our national capabilities and capacities. This was already confirmed in this format by the Prime Minister.
In 2014, the Republic of Macedonia is part of the Battle Group of the European Union for the second time; namely, we participate in the EUBG 2014-2 together with Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Spain with 134 military personnel. Our commitment to the contribution to Euro – Atlantic security and global peace does not stop here. In view of expanding the cooperation and exploring the possibilities for a future joint contribution to the peace missions of the United Nations, we have initiated negotiations with the United States of America for a trilateral partnership with the Republic of Senegal.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Defence reforms are the second issue that I will address. Today, the Army of the Republic of Macedonia is a fully professional army with about 8,100 authorized active strength. The current manning level is approximately 85% and we are about to achieve the planned manning target of 90%. The representation of the non-majority ethnic communities in the Army has reached 27.5% and we have undertaken measures to ensure greater female representation from the current 8.5% by implementing the UN Resolution 1325.
Significant progress has been achieved in the ongoing transformation of the Army, which will be fully completed by the end of 2015. However, the process of defense reforms is a continuous and long process focused on organizational restructuring and reinforcing of the operational capabilities of the Army for conducting a broad spectrum of operations at home and abroad. In that spirit, our plans and ambitions for the upcoming ten years are focused on investing in and developing deployable military capacities and capabilities, out of which 50% are to be deployable and interoperable for contribution to international operations led by the UN, NATO, the EU and other multinational coalitions.
The development of deployable capabilities and forces for contribution to NATO led operations is a long-term process in which the Republic of Macedonia has invested considerable resources. The training and evaluation of the units of the Army, particularly the units declared for international operations are conducted according to the highest NATO standards and requirements (NATO Operational Capabilities Concept – OCC). Today, the Army of the Republic of Macedonia has several certified units for NATO – led operations, including one medium infantry battalion group and one Role 2 light maneuver medical treatment facility.
The modernization and equipping of the Army with sophisticated military equipment and armed systems is a major challenge for the Republic of Macedonia. We are aware of the needs for new sophisticated military equipment, especially for the deployable land force. In January this year, the Government set the Long-Term Defense Development Plan: 2014-2023 (LTDDP), which incorporates the Plan for modernization and equipping of the ARM. In line with the LTTDP and the financial construction approved by the Government, the defence budget is planned to continually increase from the current 1.17% of the GDP to 1.60% of the GDP by 2023. Next year, 2015, the budget of the Ministry of Defence will increase by 15%, reaching thus 1.27% of GDP. I will make sure that the available funds are used efficiently, so the impact will be greater. That will enable improved combat readiness of the Army and interoperability with the armed forces of the Alliance. To that end, the priority is given to the declared units for contribution to international operations.
The Ministry of Defence undertakes appropriate measures and activities in the sphere of information security, complying with all NATO procedures for procurement of IT equipment. We have initiated implementation of the national strategy on cyber defence and we have accepted five Partnership Goals within the PARP for adoption and study of the required documentation and standards, as well as active participation in cyber defence related activities and events.
Investing in education and upgrading the knowledge of our personnel is an inevitable part of our plans for transformation of the defence forces. Additionally, the expansion of the cooperation in the region and beyond through education and training is yet another benefit for all of us. In that spirit, we have established and developed the Public Affairs Regional Centre. In June 2013, the Centre became a member of the Partnership Training and Education Centres, being the single Centre to provide training of this type. It is an obligation for us as well to make this Centre available to the friendly and partner nations outside this region, in cooperation and with the support of NATO. The first certified NATO media training course – basic level was conducted in April this year.
Within the time period of this MAP cycle, the MOD and ARM were active with unvarying intensity in the field of bilateral, regional and international defence cooperation. The meetings and bilateral defence consultations on the highest level have given a new impetus in the cooperation related to education, joint training and exercises, exchange of experiences and joint participation in operations.
I will emphasize with pleasure that the close and fruitful regional cooperation has been continuously taken forward opening new projects for development of joint defence capabilities and capacities. I would like to highlight the projects Balkan Regional Approach to Air Defence – BRAAD led by Croatia and the Balkan Medical Task Force. We are eager to see the beginning of the BRAAD pre-acquisition study and its practical implementation.
The development of the regional medical task force is a joint project of Macedonia, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Slovenia and Serbia and it has been marked by a steady progress. As of 2015, the Headquarters of the task force will be located in our capital.
Our Military Academy and the Public Affairs Training Centre are open for all countries from this region. In specific, 25 students from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo and Montenegro are currently being educated at the Military Academy.
My plan is to call all my colleagues from the region next week, my first week in the office and inform them about the commitment of my country to work together in order to coordinate our efforts to implement the Smart Defence concept on a regional basis.
From our perspective, initiating more projects in the spirit of Smart Defence and involving all countries from the region is beneficial for all participants.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I would like to use this opportunity to assure you that my country is fully committed to the UN led process to solve the differences over the name with our neighbour, the Hellenic Republic. The integration of the Republic of Macedonia in NATO will contribute to further strengthening of the stability and prosperity, not just in my country, but in the whole region and Europe.
I would like to assure you that we will continue to contribute to the international operations, implement the defence reforms and develop deployable interoperable capabilities, implement the Partnership Goals and contribute comprehensively to Euro – Atlantic security and stability.
Thank you for your attention.