Macedonia's primary foreign policy concerns under President Gligorov were the extended dispute with Greece over international recognition, which lasted until the mid-1990s, and fears that ongoing conflicts in other parts of the former Yugoslavia would spread to Macedonia. President Trajkovski has voiced his intention of pursuing stability in the region by fostering friendly relations with neighboring states including Greece, Bulgaria, Albania, and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia while also encouraging the development of democracy and respect for human rights. He regards EU membership as a strategic goal.
On 9 April 2001 Macedonia became the first nation to receive a Stabilization and Association Agreement (SAA) with the EU. This agreement guarantees free trade with the EU as long as Macedonia works on reforming the economy and upholding human and political rights. Another major boost to the Macedonian economy came in April 2002, when the country was promised over US $500 million in aid from a host of nations and organizations. Most of the money is earmarked for balancing the budget and rebuilding homes and facilities devastated by the fighting that occurred throughout 2001.
In November 2002, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) announced seven new countries would accede to the body by 2004; Macedonia was not one of them, but it is waiting for a later round of expansion. In March 2003, NATO ended its Operation Allied Harmony in Macedonia, and its peacekeeping functions were handed over to the EU. Since NATO wants to help Macedonia remain within Euro-Atlantic security structures, it will maintain civilian and military representatives in Skopje. Operation Allied Harmony was NATO's third operation in Macedonia, following ones in 2001 and 2002.