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26th Jan 2020

Balkan states welcome Nato's commitment to the region

  • The two-day Nato summit took place in Lisbon. (Photo: Nato)

Nato pledged its support for the Euro-Atlantic aspirations of Western Balkan countries during the Lisbon summit last weekend (19-20 November).

The 28-nation military alliance re-confirmed its commitment to the region during the final declaration of the summit.

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Nato, which still considers the Western Balkans to be a strategically important region, said it remained committed to peace and stability in Kosovo, where force numbers will be reduced but not withdrawn entirely.

Owing to a continuing dispute with Nato member Greece, which was not resolved at the weekend, Macedonia was again denied an invitation to join the alliance. But summit members repeated the assertion made by heads of state and government at a Bucharest meeting in 2008 that Macedonia would be invited as soon as a solution for the naming problem with Athens was found.

Nato expressed support for the aspirations of Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina, both of which have applied for membership. It also expressed a desire to strengthen relations with Serbia.

Albania and Croatia, the two most recent Balkan entrants to the alliance, were happy with the conclusions of the summit and with Nato's strategy, officials said.

Croatian president Ivo Josipovic said retaining the "open door" policy, the confirmation of the principle of collective defence and the commitment to Euro-Atlantic integration of the Western Balkans were among the most important summit results from a Croatian point of view.

Mr Josipovic said that Serbia would be welcome in Nato if it wanted to join, and that Croatia would support its bid. Serbia Nato membership could improve stability and peace in the region.

Nato carried out its first military operation in the Balkans when it attacked military bases in Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1995 and launched an air campaign against Slobodan Milosevic's regime in 1999 to stop ethnic cleansing in Kosovo. The intervention was seen at the time as a demonstration of why Nato was still needed after the end of the Cold War.

Nato has been a major agent of change in the region with its peace-making operations in Bosnia and later in Kosovo, and with ongoing enlargement in the Balkans. All Balkan states are Nato members, hope to join eventually or take part in Nato's Partnership for Peace programme.

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