Today, on the plateau in front of the government building, the NATO flag was raised at an official ceremony. Although Macedonia gained a place in the Alliance by signing the Accession Protocol, there are several more steps to go before being granted full membership.

The shortest period during which a country became a full member after signing the Accession Protocol was nine months. This is how much Croatia and Albania waited, whose accession protocols were signed on July 9, 2008, and formally became members on April 1, the following year. Macedonia will formally become a full-fledged member of NATO at the moment it delivers the “accession instrument” in Washington. In our case, this is the accession decision and the law on ratification of the international treaty for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (Washington Treaty).

According to NATO’s explanation, the Allies now need to ratify the protocol for Macedonia’s accession in accordance with their national procedures.

“The ratification procedure varies from country to country. For example, the US needs a two-thirds majority to pass the necessary legislation to the Senate. In other countries, for example in the UK, no formal vote is needed in Parliament,” the Alliance says.

Once all allies ratify the protocol, according to the procedure, the NATO Secretary General formally invites the country to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. This happens after all allies notify the US government, who are the “Guardians” of the Washington Treaty.

The new member then accepts the Washington Treaty under its ratification procedure of international treaties – in some placed with a parliamentary vote, others with a referendum or a government decision.

The decision or the law on ratification of the Washington Treaty, a formal “accession instrument”, is then submitted to the US State Department, and the act represents the formal accession to NATO membership.

The ratification period in the last four waves of enlargement ranged from 15 months to nine months. Countries from the Visegrad Group (Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland) were invited to the 1997 Madrid Summit, in December of that year they signed protocols for accession, and became members on March 12, 1999. The Vilnius Group (Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia), following the invitation of the Washington Summit in 1999, signed a protocol in March 2003 and became members on March 29, 2004.

Adriatic group countries – Croatia and Albania – received the fastest welcome. After the summit invitation in Bucharest in 2008, when Macedonia’s entry was blocked by Greece, the two countries received protocols on July 9, 2008, and membership on April 1, 2009. The last member, Montenegro, received an invitation in December 2015, the protocol in May 2016, and formal membership in June 2016.