Mark Branov, UMD Director of Public Relations and Communications
January 19, 2012 – Washington, D.C. – The United Macedonian Diaspora (UMD) commends Congressman Chris Smith (R-NJ) and the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission) for holding a hearing on January 18, 2012 on the topic of the Western Balkans and the 2012 NATO Summit.
“Due to the tireless work of Congressman Smith and the U.S. Helsinki Commission, the issue of enlargement has gained even greater attention in the lead-up to the May 2012 NATO Summit in Chicago,” said UMD President Metodija A. Koloski.
Congressman Michael Turner (R-OH), Chairman of the NATO Parliamentary Committee, Congressman Elliot Engel (D-NY), a senior member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and Congressman Robert Aderholt (R-GA), a member of the U.S. Helsinki Commission, also attended the hearing.
Participants discussed the future of NATO as an institution, its presence in the Western Balkans, and the impact of the upcoming NATO Summit. Domestic political situations in individual countries were discussed, as were the chances of accession for Macedonia, Kosovo, Serbia, Montenegro, and Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Koloski added: “All of the witnesses, as well as the Congressmen present, recognized the positive steps that Macedonia has made since receiving its Membership Action Plan at the 1999 Washington Summit, and the discussion was strongly in favor of Macedonia receiving an invitation to join the Alliance at the upcoming Chicago Summit.”
Dr. Daniel Serwer, a Senior Fellow at the Center for Transatlantic Relations at Johns Hopkins University, noted: “The United States should make it clear to Greece that repeating the mistake of Bucharest is not acceptable… Real progress on membership for Macedonia and Montenegro at Chicago would impart a sense of momentum to the Western Balkans that is lacking today.”
Nida Gelazis, Senior Associate of the European Program at the Woodrow Wilson International Centre for Scholars stated: “The United States ought to put more pressure on Greece to participate in finding a workable solution.”
Ivan Vejvoda, Vice President for Programs at the German Marshall Fund of the United States, said that the Greek veto of Macedonian membership was: “…a most unexpected and undesirable development. Accepting Macedonia into NATO in 2009 would have been of great relevance for Europe, the Balkan region and of course for Macedonia itself: a further reinforcement of stability, peace, and security in the region.”
Dr. Serwer added: “May is the time to correct the injustice done at Bucharest. Chicago is the place.”
UMD hopes that the U.S. Congress will continue to support NATO’s Open Door Policy especially in regards to Southeast Europe.
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