Macedonia hopes refugee crisis will bring it closer to NATO

Macedonian Defence Minister Zoran Jolevski says his country hopes refugee crisis will bring it closer to NATO

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Refugees wait to cross the Greek-Macedonian border, near the village of Idomeni, Greece March 6, 2016.

Macedonian Defence Minister Zoran Jolevski on Thursday said his country hopes its efforts to block refugee passage from its Greece border will help the country join NATO.

The country drastically tightened its border security, effectively closing the Balkan route into northern Europe and said it will act according to the decisions taken by the countries in the area.

Macedonia's bid to join the defence bloc has been blocked because Athens has disputed the country's name since Macedonia declared independence from Yugoslavia in 1991, saying it implies territorial claims to a Greek province of the same name.

"I hope that Macedonia will get its ... place at a NATO table. We have shown that we are a responsible member of the international community," Jolevski said when asked whether Macedonia's conduct in the crisis could enhance its NATO bid.

He told a news conference during a visit to Slovenia that the Balkan region would be more stable when more countries from the region join the military alliance. Montenegro was invited to join NATO in December. Bosnia also aspires to become a member.

"An invitation for Montenegro is a big step forward, we believe an invitation for Macedonia would also be important, as well as the process (on NATO membership) being activated for Bosnia and Herzegovina. That will help the stability and prosperity of southeastern Europe," Jolevski said.

Jolevski said that the Macedonian border with Greece was not completely closed to refugees, but some 14,000 to 15,000 refugees have built up at the border in recent days as Macedonia strictly limits the refugee flow.

He said that Macedonia would continue to prevent illegal refugee crossings of its border with the help of the army, and urged the European Union, other European states and Turkey to find a joint solution for the conflict in Syria.

TRTWorld, Reuters