North Macedonia has officially joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) becoming the Alliance’s 30th member.

Following the signing of the North Macedonia’s accession protocol in February, the country has joined NATO after handing over its instrument of accession to the US State Department.

Speaking last Friday, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said: “North Macedonia is now part of the NATO family, a family of thirty nations and almost one billion people. A family based on the certainty that, no matter what challenges we face, we are all stronger and safer together.”

Today a flag-raising ceremony was held at Brussels HQ to mark the country’s accession to the organisation.

Stoltenberg called North Macedonia joining the alliance ‘great news at a difficult time’ in light of the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic.

At the flag-raising ceremony, he said: “This is a historic moment for North Macedonia. It comes after years of perseverance, determination, and commitment to reform. In the best spirit of the Alliance, and through political courage and vision, North Macedonia and Greece reached a historic compromise over the name issue.

“The Prespa agreement made NATO accession possible. It has also contributed to good neighbourly relations and a brighter future for North Macedonia. Your hard work has made today possible.”

North Macedonia currently spends $152m on defence, according to IISS’s The Military Balance 2020. This equates to around 1.2% of North Macedonia’s GDP, which falls short of the NATO recommended 2%. At NATO Engages last December North Macedonian officials said they were looking to increase spending to the 2% target.

North Macedonia’s Armed Forces comprise 8,000 active personnel, 7,600 paramilitary personnel and a further 4,850 reservists. The country supported NATO’s Operation Resolute Support in Afghanistan.