UMD Co-Sponsors International Conference on U.S.-Central and East European Relations

Helps generate concrete policy recommendations for incoming U.S. administration

By Andrej Josifov

On October 2, 2008, UMD was a core sponsor, along with the Hungarian American Coalition and the American Polish Forum, of an international conference entitled, New Allies and the New U.S. Administration: Priorities for U.S.-CEE Relations, hosted by the renowned Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C.  The conference was co-hosted by the Foundation for Democracy, Culture and Liberty in Romania.  The upcoming U.S. presidential elections made this a most timely event.   Conference participants expressed their opinions on the strategic relationship between the United States and the Central and East European States (CEE) and generated concrete policy recommendations for the incoming U.S. administration.  Twenty-two million Americans descend from Central and Eastern Europe.  The conference featured keynote remarks from the Senior Foreign Policy Advisors to both presidential candidates, Senator John McCain and Senator Barack Obama, Dr. Kori Schake for the McCain Campaign and Philip H. Gordon for the Obama Campaign. 

This conference was of great importance to Macedonian-Americans and Macedonia.  It was an excellent occasion to educate an audience of over 100 attendees, especially representatives from the two U.S. presidential campaigns, Central and Eastern European Diaspora leaders, regional experts, analysts, business representatives, scholars, and the media about issues important to Macedonian-Americans.  With UMD’s participation and core sponsorship of the conference, UMD is fulfilling one of its central missions of furthering U.S.-Macedonian relations and fostering peace, democracy, human rights, and stability in Southeast Europe. 

Following the keynote remarks from Dr. Kori Schake, Senior Foreign Policy Advisor to Senator John McCain, and Philip H. Gordon, Senior Foreign Policy Advisor to Senator Barack Obama, CEE diaspora leaders had the opportunity to ask questions of them.  UMD President Metodija A. Koloski inquired from Dr. Schake what Senator McCain’s policy towards Macedonia and its NATO membership would be if elected.  Dr. Schake stated that Senator McCain is in favor of Macedonia’s NATO membership based on U.S. interests in the region and noted that it was unfortunate that Greece blocked Macedonia’s NATO entry.

Koloski made the same inquiry to Philip H. Gordon, Senator Obama’s advisor, and noted that Macedonian-Americans were disappointed and gravely concerned by Senator Obama’s co-sponsorship of Senate Resolution 300, an anti-Macedonian resolution that essentially recites Greece’s position in the “name dispute” and uses the meaningless acronym “FYROM” in referring to Macedonia.  Gordon stated that Senator Obama does in fact support Macedonia’s NATO admission but added that a mutually acceptable name should be found. 

Following the remarks of the campaign representatives, Koloski participated as a panelist for a discussion on Economic and Public Diplomacy Priorities.  During his remarks as a panelist, Koloski provided a summary of Macedonia’s recent history, describing its remarkable transition to a modern, independent, democratic nation that has effected substantial economic, judicial and security reforms.  Koloski also addressed Macedonia’s important role in regional security, peace and in regional energy issues.  He urged the next administration to adopt and implement policies that further these efforts to secure peace, progress and stability in the region.  Koloski’s comments included an explanation of Macedonia’s NATO membership bid and Greece’s reprehensible veto based on its unilateral objection to Macedonia’s name.

During the panel discussion representatives of the Greek Embassy attending the conference made the dubious claim that all NATO members supported Greece’s veto of Macedonia’s NATO membership.  They even claimed incredibly that President Bush himself supported the Greek veto.  During a lively exchange with the Greek representative, Koloski corrected the Greek envoy’s claims and made it clear that Greece alone bore sole responsibility for its veto of Macedonia’s bid for NATO membership.  This exchange demonstrated to the attendees firsthand the ways in which Greece seeks to influence public opinion in this “name dispute,” and Macedonia’s uphill battle to resolve the “dispute” in face of this kind of intransigence.  Another interesting exchange occurred when representatives of the Greek Embassy claimed that it is the Macedonian government that spreads nationalism in the Balkans by raising issues about a non-existent Macedonian minority in Greece.  Koloski responded that the Government of Macedonia does not have to tell him anything about that sad story because members of his own family were subject to Greek discrimination and were forced to flee Greece.

The conference consisted of two panels; one on security priorities and one on economic and public diplomacy priorities were organized.  Speakers included: Janusz Bugajski, Director, New European Democracies Project, CSIS; Dragos Seuleanu, Foundation for Democracy, Liberty, and Culture, Romania; Jeffrey Simon, National Defense University; Stephen Blank, U.S. Army War College; Vladimir Socor, Jamestown Foundation; Anita Orban, Constellation Energy Institute, Hungary; Ronald Slimp, TD International, and Christopher Medalis, Institute of International Education.  UMD President Metodija A. Koloski, as well as Maximilian Teleki of the Hungarian American Coalition and Artur Orkisz of the American Polish Forum served as panelists as well.

The conference was a great success and provided an outstanding forum for all those who attended and participated.  General sponsors of the conference included, the American Friends of the Czech Republic, Friends of Slovakia, the Joint Baltic American National Committee, Inc., Georgian Association in the United States, Lithuanian American Community, American Hungarian Federation, National Albanian American Council, Ukrainian Congress Committee of America, Bosniak American Advisory Council for Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the U.S.-Ukraine Foundation.  Many of these organizations demonstrated support to UMD after the conference successfully concluded.

UMD hopes to sponsor and participate in similar events in the future.  These events provide a great opportunity to present Macedonia’s issues to NGOs, policymakers, diplomats, educators, and academics and allow a direct, frank and open communications and discussions enhances their respective understanding of issues and policies.  UMD’s sponsorship and participation in such events is one of the best means available to it to further Macedonian issues and to educate others on such matters.

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