UMD Applauds 32 Members of Congress for Urging Secretary Tillerson to Visit Macedonia

The United Macedonian Diaspora (UMD), the voice of the Macedonian-American community in Washington, D.C., applauds the efforts of the Congressional Caucus on Macedonia and Macedonian-Americans Co-Chairs Congressman David Trott, Congressman Brendan Boyle, Congressman Steve Stivers, and Congresswoman Debbie Dingell, along with members of the Macedonia Caucus and friends of Macedonia for sending a letter to U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson urging him to visit Macedonia and therefore strengthen the strategic U.S.-Macedonia partnership.

Secretary Tillerson’s visit would be the first visit of a U.S. Secretary of State to Macedonia since 2001. The importance was exemplified by Congressman Trott in a statement on July 20, 2017: “Macedonia has been a critical partner in advancing U.S. national security efforts around the world, and as Russia continues to prey on our world’s young democracies, we must ensure the sovereignty of our Balkan ally.”

The Tillerson letter accumulated 32 signatures, representing Members of Congress from 16 different U.S. States, and included 4 members of the House Committee on Armed Services and 9 members from the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, the Chairman and Ranking Members of the Europe Subcommittee, as well as 14 Republicans and 18 Democrats—making the letter a bi-partisan success that confirmed the uniform necessity of maintaining the U.S.-Macedonia relationship.

July 20th concluded a nearly two-month campaign, which began during the 4th Macedonian-American Leadership Conference when dozens of Macedonian-Americans and MALC2017 participants walked the halls of Congress meeting with the Caucus Co-Chairs and other members of Congress stressing the importance of such a visit. Together with the UMD Fellows, over 250 educational meetings were conducted in the U.S. Congress.

“The Macedonian-American community could not be more grateful for the leadership of the Macedonia Caucus Co-Chairs – Macedonia is an important ally to the U.S., and we are pleased to see the bi-partisan support,” stated UMD President Metodija A. Koloski. “Our community remains hopeful that Secretary Tillerson will seriously consider the request made by these Members of Congress and visit Macedonia in the very near future – it would truly mean a great deal to the people of Macedonia, improve the image of the U.S. in Macedonia, and add impetus to Macedonia’s future integration into NATO.”

UMD is optimistic that now is the time to reaffirm the strength and durability of the relationship between the United States and the Republic of Macedonia. We extend our gratitude to everyone involved in this tremendous effort and insist that we continue striving for a stronger Macedonia.

Full text is as follows:

Dear Secretary Tillerson:

As members of the Macedonia Caucus and friends of Macedonia, together with our partners in NATO and the EU, we have been closely watching the developing political situation in Macedonia. As Macedonia continues on a path toward a stronger future, we see a tremendous opportunity to further promote a strong relationship with this key Balkan ally.

Since the establishment of full diplomatic relations in 1995, the United States of America has readily supported Macedonia’s aspirations for full integration into Euro-Atlantic institutions, and remains committed to helping Macedonia strengthen its democratic foundations. A vibrant, multi-cultural country, Macedonia has a positive future ahead, and we look forward to engaging with Macedonia to ensure that it realizes this potential.

Despite common interests and a growing security and economic partnership, the last time a Secretary of Defense visited Macedonia was a decade ago, and it’s been almost 15 years since a Secretary of State visited Skopje. With Macedonia beginning a crucial portion of its contemporary history, and non-state and state actors like Russia looking to exploit and influence vulnerable countries in the region, the dynamics in the Balkans present an exceptional opportunity to show Macedonia that the United States of America recognizes the value of strengthening this relationship.

As you work to develop the European policy of the administration, we hope that you will see it is in the best interests of the United States to further our relationship with Macedonia, as we strive for a safer and freer world. We stand ready to assist you in your efforts to actively promote this bilateral relationship.

Thank you for your prompt attention to this important matter and we look forward to your leadership on this issue.