“Exactly one year ago we became a full member of the North Atlantic Alliance. The road to membership was long and difficult, we waited 20 years, which is the most out of all candidates in the history of the organization, but despite all the delays we did not give up because it was and remains our key strategic goal since independence until today,” said President Stevo Pendarovski at the central ceremony marking the first anniversary of North Macedonia’s NATO membership at the Ilinden Barracks in Skopje. He stressed that the country was aware that NATO membership is not a guarantee that its will still face challenges, because they are inevitable for every country in the world, but membership is a guarantee that when they occur, the country will not be alone and that the readiness for resistance and defence will be multiplied. The President also emphasized that for a year now North Macedonia has been participating in all working committees and bodies, and it is making strategic decisions together as an equal member and has full access to the most relevant information available to the Alliance. At the same time, Pendarovski said, the country is part of NATO’s coordination mechanisms for dealing with hybrid threats and public disinformation campaigns, and in relation to the pandemic, the Alliance was and still is committed to preventing the health crisis from turning into a security one. “If I have to describe today in one word, the event with which we celebrate North Macedonia’s membership in NATO – then that word is – we have succeeded. We succeeded because NATO membership is the greatest contribution to our security and stability. It is the strongest guarantee for protection of the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the Republic of North Macedonia,” emphasized Prime Minister Zoran Zaev in his address at the ceremony. “With NATO membership, we overcome divisions, political and interethnic, and rise stronger and more united, thanks to the desire for a better common tomorrow and the ambition to realize it. In that spirit, this solemn day calls for us to continue to achieve our second strategic goal – membership in the European Union,” said Prime Minister Zaev. “You have shown courage, you have shown determination and perseverance, I am proud to be in the same team with all of you and the whole Alliance is stronger with your membership, we are all stronger together,” said the Commander of the Allied Command NATO in Naples, Admiral Robert Burke at the ceremony. Admiral Burke stressed that the Alliance is stronger because of the common principles and values and, as he said, the country’s commitment to the ideals of freedom and democracy and the firm determination to ensure peace and stability. Among other functionaries and politicians, Defence Minister Radmila Sekerinska and Parliament Speaker Talat Xhaferi expressed their pleasure with this accomplishment by the country.