Address by the President Ivanov on the occasion of August 18 - Army Day
Friday, 18 August 2017 19:25   

Distinguished members of the Army of the Republic of Macedonia,

Distinguished attendees,

Fellow citizens,

It is an honor to welcome you and wish you many happy returns of this day - August 18, Day of the Army of the Republic of Macedonia.

Today, as we celebrate this important date – 25 years since the establishment of the Army, we remind ourselves of the past, but we also look at the future.

We all remember very well that the Army was established in turbulent times, in a very short period of time and with scarce equipment, but with much love for our homeland.

We remember the first Macedonian soldiers who raised the flag of the Republic of Macedonia at the "Ramna Niva" watchtower.

We remember the first recruits who pledged their first solemn oath in the "Ilinden" army barracks. Even back then, there were great expectations from our Army.  In those dramatic times when we could clearly hear the sound of weapons in the Balkans, when we were still denied and blackmailed, the first President of the Republic of Macedonia Kiro Gligorov underlined that the Army should serve to protect the borders, territorial integrity and sovereignty of our young independent state.  With that, a quarter century ago, he traced the fundamental tasks of our Army.

In these past 25 years, the capacities of the Army of the Republic of Macedonia have been checked many times.

In the dawn of our independence, the Army was a strong argument against all those who doubted our capability to survive as a sovereign country.

Walking down our Euro-Atlantic road, with a total of 27 rotations in ISAF, 6 rotations in "Resolute support", 22 rotations in ALTEA and 10 rotations in UNIFIL, our Army has become the most verified army in the history of the Alliance.

During the first migrant wave, the Army protected not only Macedonia, but also Europe against the threat of illegal migration.

In these past 25 years, the Army strengthened our national security as well.  A security that is so necessary for democracy and economy, but also for the Macedonian model of coexistence and respect of diversity.

Today, on the 25th anniversary since the establishment of the Army, expressed our gratitude, in the form of a Medal for Military Merits, to three units which proved themselves as true ambassadors of both the Army and the Republic of Macedonia through their achievements.

The first one is the Training and Doctrine Command Unit.  This command unit is to be credited for the high level training of the members of the Army as the foundation of military readiness of the Army of the Republic of Macedonia.  Many generations of senior officers and soldiers were built thanks to this command unit.

Here we must also mention the Fourth Mechanized Infantry Batallion.  Back in 2014, this battalion received the highest assessment in the EU Battle Group.  Last year, in 2016, part of this batallion participated in the biggest NATO-led military exercise in Eastern Europe - Anaconda.  The battalion achieved highest results at this year's exercises: Platinum Wolf and Platinum Lion.  This battalion is also most actively involved in handling the forest fires throughout Macedonia.

Among us, we also have members of the battalion that is present at every solemn occasion in our country.  Its members participate in welcoming high level foreign state delegations, in raising the Macedonian flag on its pole, but also in the conscience of Macedonian citizens.  This battalion that makes the Army more popular is also an immediate support to the Supreme Commander.  Therefore, on this 25th anniversary of our Army, we also pay tribute to the Honrary Batallion with a Medal for Military Merits.

Owing to this dedication, our Army has become a synonym for patriotism, loyalty and discipline.

However, today I will not speak about what the Army has done in the past.   I will not speak about what the Army is currently doing either.  Instead, I will say a few words about what the Army should be doing in the future.

Den_na_ARM_02Distinguished attendees,

The Army, but also all other stakeholders in the defense system should adapt to the new threats and new reality.

The defense strategy that should be adopted by the end of this year should define the setting of the defense system in conditions of prevention, handling threats and eliminating the consequences caused by natural disasters and pollution.

Defense planning does not only encompass the armed forces, but also the participation of citizens, state bodies, civil society and media. This because it is our shared responsibility to take care of the Republic of Macedonia.

Defense planning also implies purchase, development and production of defense capacitiy technologies.  We have the resources and capacities, but they remain unused just because they are not part of a network. We need to finally learn how to use the domestic capacities of scientific and research institutes and entities working in the area of automatics, robotics and IT communications.  We need to use these capacities for maintenance of drones, production of protection equipment for our soldiers and protection of vehicles and ammunition.  We must invest in technology because we will be unable to handle unconventional threats using conventional means.

More than ever before, Macedonia needs a military – civil cooperation.  This cooperation is much needed for the unity among the Army, state bodies, citizens and local self – government in their response to threats, disasters and pollution that we are facing.

The Army must transform itself and be adequately deployed in the 8 planning regions in order to respond to its basic mission and future tasks: Firstly, monitoring of areas affected by crises, disasters and pollution.  Secondly, achieving prevention through Army presence.

Dear fellow citizens,

All of this is necessary because the operational environment is changing.  We will be increasingly dealing with the climate extremes of Nature and the violent extremism of man.

Due to global climate change, we will be more frequently exposed to extreme weather conditions.  Last year we faced floods.  This year, we see ravaging forest fires.  Many of these challenges could have been prevented and adequately addressed.  However, this did not happen because the circle of responsibility is not closed.

Due to globalization of violent extremism and radicalism, we will also see increased threats of illegal migration and international terrorism.  For two years now, we have had a declared state of crisis because of the threat from illegal migration.  At the same time, almost on a daily basis, we are witnessing unprecedented terrorist attacks throughout Europe.  All because the circle of responsibility is not closed.

Because of the globalization of cyber threats, we will increasingly be witnessing states – victims of attacks, sabotages and takeover of control over their electricity networks, communication and banking systems.  Many countries have fallen victim to the placing of news and messages tailored and adapted to a certain target audience.  The use of fake news and planned leaks of information are the two basic methods of managing perception in function of subversion.  Apart from its physical, Macedonia must also safeguard its cyber territory.  However, the risk for us is high, because here agin, the circle of responsibility has not been closed.

These are all serious challenges that demand serious answers.  The only institution that can most adequately respond is our Army.  This is why, the future role of the Army will consist of four tasks:

First.  Support to the crisis management mechanism in handling natural disasters and pollution.  I wish to remind state authorities about their obligation to respect the legal justification for including the Army in the process of dealing with the consequences in a state of crisis.  In absence of resources and time, it often happens that the Army, without a decision by the Supreme Commander and without any fulfilled conditions for declaring a state of crisis, is hired for tasks that are within the realm of competences of other institutions.  I wish to reiterate that the Army has been engaged without my decision and without any preconditions for declaring a state of crisis.  This is a serious violation of the Law that I have no intention of tolerating.  The Army is spending its own resources in order to fulfill tasks that fall under the competence of other institutions.  The circle of responsibility must be closed, with clear distinction between the competences - the what, the when and the how - for every stakeholder.

The second role of the Army will be to support the police in the fight against urban terrorism in ethnically and religiously diverse cities. Urbanization is a challenge.  The future grey zone are cities and regionalization.  We must take into consideration the lessons learned from the 1995 UNPREDEP preventive mission in Northwest Macedonia.  These are lessons about the growing threat of separatist ideas and jeopardizing the territorial integrity of our country.

The third role of the Army will be to protect the borders against illegal migration.  It is no longer enough to receive information about migrations when illegal migrants are already at our border.  In order to react in time, we must be present at the very source of illegal migration. Therefore, it is necessary for the Army of the Republic of Macedonia to take part in UN-led peace keeping operations in the regions where these threats originate from.  Illegal migration and international terrorism are threats that we will continue to face in the future. We must renew the military – diplomatic and intelligence network inside the territories that are a source of threats, transit, end destinations, but also in the centres where decisions are made.

Finally, the fourth role of the Army will be cyber defense.  With the support of state bodies, the Army of the Republic of Macedonia must build a syaten for prevention and protection of critical infrastructure.  Priority should be placed on the development of cyber defense and electronic warfare in a future non-linear war.  The lessons learned from non-linear warfare of everyone against everyone else mean conquering territories without casualties and without any use of military weaponry.  In our cyber age, the Army will also defend Macedonian cyber territory.

For eight years now, I have been Supreme Commander and I can freely say that the Army is capable of assuming these tasks.

But, there is a need for more funds.

As a country, we are continuously underlining our dedication and readiness to become part of NATO.  However, id we wish to enjoy the privileges, we must also assume the responsibilities.  The membership of Macedonia in NATO also means a corresponding Army budget.  And that is a minimum of 2% of the state budget.

In this past period, I was able to visist all the army barracks and to personally witness the living standard of soldiers.  I am aware of what they have on the menu, what conditions they live in and what kind of uniforms they wear.  I have first hand information on the challenges that our dedicated and professional soldiers are faced with.  It is high time to restore the dignity of the Macedonian soldier.  It is high time to increase the Army budget.  This because our Army will be facing great challenges and great tasks.

Apart from funds, this also requires reforms.  The reforms of the national security system must be in accordance with the defense strategy.  The same strategy that will have to be adopted by the end of this year.

Dear fellow citizens,

Intelligence is the first line of defense.  The power of information is the basis for prevention and handling threats.  The lessons we learned from the migration crisis say that withough timely information, there is no proactivity.  Without timely information, there is no adequate distribution of the response forces.  We need standards in terms of quality and quantity of information.  We need proactive, rather than reactive intelligence.

There is no universal system of defense, a comprehensive body of legislation with a model for national security.  Every country has threats and interests that should be managed by way of prevention, proactivity and independence.  We are still in the phase of building the capacities for response to these threats.  In these past 25 years, we have been learning many lessons.  We are building our knowledge on the basis of our mistakes.

But this essential reform must pass through a multitude of filters.  All reforms of the national security system must pass through the constitutionally competent Security Council of the Republic of Macedonia.  This is the way to ultimately close the circle of responsibility.

An increased budget and a reformed system with a closed circle of responsibility is the formula for success.  It is only in this way that we will create conditions for the Army to be successful in the realization of all tasks ahead of it.  Tasks that are necessary to be realized in order for the Army to provide the three things most important for every person: carefree childhood, prosperous life and serene old age – right here, in our common homeland, he Republic of Macedonia.

Distinguished members of the Army of the Republic of Macedonia,

This 25th anniversary is a symbolic new chapter for the Army.  You will be facing major challenges and will be given important tasks.  These new tasks and roles should not be considered as a burden, but as a recognition and an expression of our trust in you, in your patriotism and professionalism.  You have completely justified the trust of the citizens and of the homeland.  You have defended the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the Republic of Macedonia.

Therefore, today, on this solemn occasion, I wish for one thing only.  I wish that on the next great anniversary, the 50th anniversary since the establishment of the Army, some future President of the Republic of Macedonia and Supreme Commander would stand here, at this very place and say the same words: soldiers and senior officers, you have completely justified the trust of the citizens and of the homeland – Republic of Macedonia.

I congratulate you and I thank you for your professionalism and discipline in the realization of your highly responsible duties.  I congratulate you and I thank you for your solidarity towards the citizens and your unreserved loyalty toeards the homeland.

Many happy returns of this day, Day of the Army!

Long live the Army of the Republic of Macedonia!

Long live the Republic of Macedonia!