Welcome to this wonderful building, the Museum of the Macedonian Struggle for Sovereignty and Independence, where the Ministry of Defence and the Army of the Republic of Macedonia, today, together with you esteemed guests, for the first time among the glorious vojvodas and commanders of the past, share the successes of the Macedonian Army from the beginning the 21st century. The ARM has proven to be the strongest guardian and guarantor of the independence of our country as a guarantor in the realization of the covenant of our ancestors to defend the freedom and sovereignty of the Republic of Macedonia.

The Army of the Republic of Macedonia, formed 24 years ago on the glorious combat and liberating traditions of the revolutionary companies of the Ilinden and Partisan units of the National Liberation Army of Macedonia, for almost half the time of its existence as a worthy partner of the international community, particularly NATO and the European Union, been engaged in maintaining peace and freedom, protection of democracy and human rights, equality and freedom outside the borders of our homeland.

For 12 years beginning from 2002 to 2014, the Army of the Republic of Macedonia was an ambassador of peace in the international NATO mission in Afghanistan – ISAF.

The Successful completion of the ISAF mission was the occasion for the Ministry of Defence to prepare the publication “ARM – 12 years ambassador of peace in the ISAF mission”, with whose promotion today we want to pay tribute to all members of the Army who have represented our country in one of the largest international missions of NATO.

The state leadership of the Republic of Macedonia, the President of the Republic of Macedonia and Supreme Commander of the ARM, Government of the Republic of Macedonia and Assembly of the Republic of Macedonia decided to send our troops into Afghanistan in an extremely difficult time and complex period for Macedonia and the international community. I was Head of the Cabinet of the late President Trajkovski when the US Ambassador came to ask for support from Macedonia to the ISAF mission. The President and everyone else later, as well as members of the Government, MPs, gave support for this participation. It is very important to note that for each rotation our MPs always voted to send our peacekeepers. This shows how the Macedonian society and its citizens appreciate and support the Army of the Republic of Macedonia.

More than 2,700 members of the ARM participated in the ISAF mission, rotating for a period of 12 years. The political consensus and high support of the citizens of the Republic of Macedonia is particularly important in this process. Our soldiers were often ready to give their lives to protect peace and freedom in Afghanistan. One of my greatest and happiest moments in Washington was when the National Security Council in the White House showed me a picture how Macedonian peacekeepers, together with other peacekeepers, protected the US Embassy from the attack of the Taliban.

The experiences of the ARM members in Afghanistan are of great benefit in dealing with the challenges that Macedonia faces today, the migrant crisis. The participation of Macedonian troops in these missions is a two-way avenue – on the one hand we as an Army and state show ourselves as a worthy partner of the international community, and together with our peacekeepers we are contributing towards peace and stability in the other parts of the world. On the other hand our officers and soldiers, members of the Army, are gaining a lot of experience, which is significant to them as AMR members. For our participation the ARM members have received great and numerous recognitions and orders and we are proud of them.

I would like to use this opportunity to express my big gratitude to the families of our troops for their perseverance and support of their loved ones. To send the pillar of the family away from home is not easy. But they know that the goal is noble and humane.

The Ministry of Defence and the whole executive and legislative power in the Republic of Macedonia continue with the support of Afghanistan, now as part of the new mission “Resolute Support”.

The global security, stability and comprehensive peace remain our commitment. The contingent from the Republic of Macedonia, although reduced in absolute terms, remains one of the highest “per capita” contributors in Afghanistan.

We issue this publication of the Ministry of Defence in a sign of gratitude to the members of the Army of the Republic of Macedonia for everything they have done for establishing peace and democracy in Afghanistan, but to also serve as a reminder for future generations of the Macedonian cult of freedom and equality.

Thank you.