STA, 11 February 2019 - Talat Xhaferi, the speaker of the Macedonian parliament, heard praise for the steps his country made to join NATO as he was welcomed by his counterpart Dejan Židan in Ljubljana on Monday, a day before the Slovenian National Assembly is to endorse Macedonia's accession to NATO under its new name.
Židan, addressing a join press conference with Xhaferi, spoke of an "historic moment" with the Macedonian parliament speaker visiting today, "and we adopting the ratification of the Accession Protocol between NATO and North Macedonia as early as tomorrow".
Asked by the STA when the Prespa Agreement with Greece changing Macedonia's name would enter into force, Xhaferi said the deal set forth that the new name applies with the ratification of the North Macedonia's NATO Accession Protocol in the Greek parliament, which happened last Friday.
However, procedure-wise, the agreement stipulates that after the ratification in the Greek parliament, Macedonia notify the United Nations on the name change, after which all UN countries need to implement internal legislation procedures to use the new name.
???? @MiroCerar na današnjem srečanju s predsednikom makedonskega Sobranja mag. Talatom Xhaferijem v Ljubljani tudi o trdni podpori Slovenije makedonskemu napredku na evroatlantski poti. Več: https://t.co/OEekfYtG4r pic.twitter.com/F0BnWO1AIP— MFA SLOVENIA (@MZZRS) February 11, 2019
Židan noted the significance of the accession protocol for Macedonia and the broader region in that "makes it possible to increase security in the Western Balkans" and give hope for the region, "divided by too many diverging views".
The ratification of the Accession Protocol was confirmed by the parliamentary Foreign Policy Committee in a 15:1 vote today, while the plenary will vote tomorrow when MPs are also addressed by Xhaferi.
After Greece, Slovenia will be the second NATO member to ratify Macedonia's accession. The government initially wanted ratification with immediate effect, but the Constitution determines that it will take effect 15 days after publication.
Xhaferi expects that Macedonia will become the 30th NATO member under its new name at the end of this or at the beginning of next year, after being given observer status last week.
He believes "the fact that we have Slovenia by our side, is a strong guarantee that we as a country and the entire Western Balkan region will develop in the right direction, one that will bring peace, stability, progress and prosperity to our people".
Židan also noted Slovenia's support for Macedonia's membership of the EU, saying it was the EU's duty to set the date of the accession talks in June, in what would be an additional boost to stabilisation of the Western Balkans.
Židan also noted the traditionally good relationship between Slovenia and Macedonia and the growing volume of merchandise trade, which is nearing EUR 300m a year, but he also pointed to the still untapped potential.
He understands Xhaferi's two-day visit as a further encouragement to step up political and business ties. He also noted that 800 Macedonian students studying in Slovenia at the moment under the same terms as their Slovenian counterparts.
Xhaferi was glad to be "among declared friends who support our Euro-Atlantic aspirations without reserve". He and Židan agreed that regional initiatives such as the Brdo-Brijuni process or the process of cooperation in SE Europe were good models to overcome hatred stemming from the past and a god basis for regional cooperation.
The Macedonian speaker was received by President Borut Pahor, Prime Minister Marjan Šarec and Foreign Minister Miro Cerar today, and met a joint delegation of the parliamentary committees for foreign policy and EU affairs and the group of friendship with Macedonia.
Cerar emphasised that Slovenia was a great supporter of Macedonia's EU and NATO aspirations. "We welcome the steps towards full membership in NATO," he wrote on Twitter.
Cerar congratulated Xhaferi on the authorities in Skopje taking responsibility and being proactive regarding the name dispute with Greece, labelling the signing of the Prespa Agreement and its implementation a historic decision.
"The next step on the Euro-Atlantic path is expected already in June, when Slovenia will be striving for and expect from the EU to launch EU membership negotiations with Macedonia," Cerar was quoted by the Foreign Ministry.
Xhaferi thanked Slovenia for its support and assistance so far and described the reform process in Macedonia.
Pahor labelled Xhaferi's visit as special, especially within the context of the ratification of the agreement between Greece and Macedonia, which along with constitutional changes is an important signal for the EU accession prospects of the region.
Pahor congratulated Macedonia and Greece for the courage in the resolving of the name dispute, adding that Slovenia had made its contribution as part of the Brdo-Brijuni initiative and the EU, the president's office said.
The president also congratulated Xhaferi on the signing of the ratification of the Accession Protocol, which he labelled as an important factor of safety, stability and well-being of the entire region and wider.