North Macedonia on Friday officially became the 30th member of the NATO military alliance. North Macedonia’s flag will be raised alongside those of the other 29 member countries at NATO headquarters in Brussels and two other commands simultaneously on Monday. It marks the end of a long quest for the former Yugoslav republic. Joining NATO and the European Union has been a priority for its leaders, but a dispute with neighboring Greece over the country’s name stalled progress for more than two decades.
North Macedonia previously was known as Macedonia, a name it shared with a Greek province. Under a 2017 deal with Athens, the country changed its name and Greece agreed to drop objections to its NATO and eventual EU membership. NATO Allies signed North Macedonia’s Accession Protocol in February 2019, after which all 29 national parliaments voted to ratify the country’s membership. A flag-raising ceremony for North Macedonia will take place at NATO Headquarters on 30 March 2020 and will be simultaneously raised at the Allied Command Operations in Mons (Belgium) and at the Allied Command Transformation in Norfolk (US).
The North Macedonia Armed Forces consist of an army, navy, air and air defense force, and a police force (under the Ministry of Interior). Under its North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Membership Action Plan, Macedonia has made strong strides on major reforms and reconstruction of its armed forces toward the goal of building and sustaining a modern, professional defense force of about 12,000 troops. The Republic of Macedonia makes an active contribution to the maintenance of international peace and security by taking part in international peace support operations. Over 4,000 Macedonian personnel have served within international peace support operation