Turkey to foster NATO bid for Balkan nations
ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
Turkish FM Ahmet Davutoğlu (L-R) chats with his counterparts Bosnia-Herzegovina’s Zlatko Lagumdzija and Croatia’s Vesna Pusic at a NATO meeting on April 19.One of the priorities Turkey will bring to the agenda for the NATO Chicago summit is the promotion of Macedonia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Montenegro, as well as Georgia’s bid to join the alliance, as their membership is tied with the peace and stability seen in both the fragile Balkan and Caucasus regions.
Though the summit will not focus on, nor make a landmark decision on enlargement, Turkey will still strongly urge allies not to slow this process down but make commitments that the invitations to join the alliance would be offered at the next summit, of course in line with their progress in meeting criteria. Diplomatic sources told the Hürriyet Daily News over the weekend that Turkey will convey the message that “as NATO we should also give the sign that our Open Door Policy is still valid” during the summit.
“NATO’s enlargement to the Balkan region is very important in terms of promoting peace and stability to this part of the world. There are still concerns that ethnic tension can be flared up in the region. NATO’s entrance to the region could prevent this,” a senior Turkish diplomat told the Daily News over the weekend.
Along with Smart Defense, the missile defense program and mandate in Afghanistan, the alliance will also discuss its enlargement process. The enlargement program of NATO considers three Balkan countries and Georgia, which are known as aspirant countries, as potential future members of the alliance, which would namely be Macedonia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Montenegro. Turkey supports all the aspirations of all four countries and has promised to be their voice in the meeting in Chicago.
Twenty-eight members and four aspirant countries’ foreign ministers will come together along the margins of the Chicago Summit to make a deliberate assessment on the enlargement.
Name dispute main hurdle before Macedonia’s joining
Macedonia had already completed the implementation of the Membership Action Plan (MAP) years ago, but is unable to join NATO due to an ongoing name dispute with Greece. Although Macedonia made proposals to resolve the problem, Greece has failed to agree to a compromise and still blocks Skopje’s request to join the bloc. Macedonia’s Foreign Minister Nikola Poposki will arrive in Ankara Tuesday to hold talks about his country’s membership to the alliance. Although it seems hard to overcome a Greek veto, Turkey will continue to raise the issue during the summit.
“Macedonia is a country consisting of various ethnic groups. As its membership to NATO delays, there are concerns that Macedonia could observe new ethnic tension. That’s why we urge our NATO allies to consider this situation among the priorities,” the senior diplomat said.
Another country whose membership to NATO is very important is Bosnia-Herzegovina. Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu has become the advocate of Bosnia in its journey to NATO, starting in 2010 where he, and some of his colleagues, successfully invited Bosnia to join the MAP.
Davutoğlu is expected to pay a visit to Sarajevo this week where he could possibly meet with his Bosnian counterpart Zlatko Lagumdzija. For Turkey, Bosnia’s NATO bid and Serbia’s EU bid are interrelated and their realization will only work for the sake of peace and stability in the Balkan region.
Montenegro’s aspiration to join NATO is also backed by Turkey. Montenegrin Pirme Minister Igor Luksic received Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s support in their efforts to become a NATO member during a visit to Ankara in March. Montenegro is implementing the MAP since 2009 and is expected to get a positive answer from the alliance in the next summit.
The Chicago Summit is slated for May 20 and 21.