North Macedonia parliament backs NATO accession

North Macedonia’s parliament has ratified an agreement to become the 30th member of the NATO alliance

SKOPJE, North Macedonia -- Lawmakers in North Macedonia unanimously ratified an agreement Tuesday to make the landlocked country in southern Europe the 30th member of the NATO military alliance.

All 114 lawmakers present in the 120-seat parliament voted in favor of ratification. A NATO flag was raised outside the building during a brief ceremony.

Spain is the only existing NATO member that has not yet approved North Macedonia’s accession; its parliament is expected to hold a ratification vote in March.

Greece was the first country to ratify North Macedonia’s accession to the western military alliance.

“By joining this alliance, we are not simply joining an international organization," North Macedonian President Stevo Pendarovski told lawmakers before the vote. "Membership of the world’s most powerful military-political alliance is a privilege, but also a huge responsibility.”

He described the vote as “a major step in completing Macedonian statehood and a (guarantee) for our territorial integrity and sovereignty.” North Macedonia and Albania hope to start membership talks with the EU that were blocked in October by France and the Netherlands. The United States and its European allies backed the two country's efforts to start the EU talks, fearing competition for influence in the Balkans from China and Russia.