SKOPJE, April 4 (Xinhua) -- Macedonia has decided it wants to join NATO as its 30th member, Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev declared Wednesday during a reception organized by the NATO Liaison Office on the occasion of NATO day.
Zaev said the Macedonian government was firmly committed to efficient domestic reforms, democratic values, rule of law, respect for human rights, functional institutions in the service of citizens.
"Good neighborly relations and regional cooperation remain our strategic goals along with the aspiration for NATO and European Union (EU) membership. We are building a new spirit of inclusive policies that lead to solutions, not to problems," Zaev said.
Moreover, "Macedonia and NATO have been close partners for 22 years and Macedonia has been contributing to NATO activities since 2002 in missions like the one in Afghanistan," he said.
Furthermore, Zaev highlighted Macedonia would increase its participation in the Afghan peacekeeping mission by 20 percent, and raise the armed forces budget by 0.2 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) per year.
In his speech, NATO Liaison Office head Captain Gorazd Bartol evaluated the Macedonian's government efforts and results in implementing reforms related to NATO membership and building good neighborly relations.
"NATO's aim is to guarantee the freedom and security of its members, promote democratic values, build trust and conditions for prosperity, as well as to solve problems and prevent conflicts," Bartol said.
Moreover, Bartol said NATO was ready to assist Macedonia on its path to membership of Euro-Atlantic organizations, adding that the country's accession to the alliance would be a great benefit for Macedonia and the region, as well as for NATO.
Macedonia is formally called Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) by the United Nations. Macedonia is also the name of a northern province in Greece and Athens is worried that the use of the same name by the neighboring state could lead to territorial claims.
The solving of name row that exists between the two countries is seen as main obstacle that Macedonia has to overcome in order to make progress towards EU and NATO integration.
During the NATO summit in Bucharest in 2008, Greece vetoed FYROM's application to enter the alliance without having solved the name issue. As Skopje has renewed efforts to join the EU and NATO, Greece has signaled that its position remains unchanged.