Macedonia and Greece sign military pact


The two countries signed a plan for co-operation specifying joint activities this year.

By Miki Trajkovski for Southeast European Times in Skopje -- 24/02/14


Macedonia and Greece defence ministers Talat Xhaferi and Dimitris Avramopoulos at the signing of the bilateral plan for co-operation in Athens.[Macedonia Ministry of Defence]

Military and security co-operation between Macedonia and Greece is necessary at a time when the two countries face a variety of security threats, officials said.

Meeting in Athens, defence ministers Talat Xhaferi of Macedonia and Dimitris Avramopoulos of Greece signed a bilateral military co-operation agreement for 2014, exemplifying the good relations the two countries strive to have despite existing political differences.

"[O]ur co-operation, which started in 1991, has shown continual improvement," Avramopoulos said.

"The plan shows our capacity to overcome all problems that are on the way to our communicating," Xhaferi said.

The plan includes organising expert meetings on air policing, training and education, military transportation and joint participation in a conference on managing international crises.

The agreement has significant security and political dimensions, said Stojan Kuzev, professor at the European University in Skopje.

"With this act, Macedonia and Greece proclaim their readiness to co-operate in the most sensitive area -- defence, which manifests the countries' readiness to support peace, mutual trust for non-aggression and erase ambitions to change borders," Kuzev told SETimes.

Both Macedonia and Greece will benefit from the agreement because they are a bridge for all regional developments, said Vasko Nikolovski, professor on terrorism at the MIT University in Skopje.

"The agreement is to be praised not only from a security point of view, but also from the aspect of exchange of cadres," Nikolovski told SETimes.

Officials said co-operation thus far included military training and education for Macedonian soldiers in Greece.

The two countries have organised expert meetings on security, intelligence, defence policy, military diplomacy, medicine, and pharmacy, and have also met to exchange experiences related to NATO and the EU.

"In addition, the Macedonian defence ministry recently established a Greek language laboratory that was donated by Greece. Last November, the first Greek language graduates received certificates," Nikolovski said.

Experts said the agreement will help Greece and Macedonia address two acute problems -- illegal immigration and extremism.

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"The two countries declare a joint struggle against the common sources and security threats. Those are Islamic radicalism and terrorism, but also against a new threat that particularly appears in Greece -- nationalism," Kuzev said.

Kuzev said the problems concerning internal security are pressing and should be addressed with determination and without delay.

"That is because [extremism and] nationalism almost never remain only within the borders."

What should Macedonia and Greece do to further advance bilateral co-operation? Share your opinion in the comments space.

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