December 20, 2010 – Washington, D.C. – The United Macedonian Diaspora (UMD) – the voice of nearly half a million Macedonian-Americans, over 40,000 of whom live in New Jersey – has expressed its disappointment that Senator Robert Menendez (D–New Jersey) decided to block Senate Resolution 673 (S. Res. 673). In so doing, the Senator officially declared his indifference to Macedonia’s contributions to the U.S. and NATO-led mission in Afghanistan. S. Res. 673 was introduced by Senator Patrick J. Leahy (D–Vermont) on September 29, 2010. S. Res. 673 is a resolution expressing the sense of the Senate that it values the active participation of the Republic of Macedonia as the state partner of the Vermont National Guard over the past 15 years.
“Senator Menendez again disappointed the Macedonian-American community by going out of his way to cater exclusively to the Greek lobby,” said UMD President Metodija A. Koloski. “Over the years, Senator Menendez has been a proponent of the Greek Government’s policy against Macedonia’s sovereign name, using ‘FYROM’ instead, a position that contradicts U.S. policy towards Macedonia and the region. By indulging his preferences instead of supporting settled U.S. policy in the region, Senator Menendez has demonstrated his insensitivity over time to the views of the Macedonian-American community in New Jersey and throughout the United States.”
Since 2006, Senator Menendez has sponsored two resolutions before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations that refer to Macedonia, a strong U.S. ally, as ‘FYROM’ and demanding that Macedonia cease its ‘propaganda’ against the Hellenic Republic. In May 2008, Senator Menendez blocked a Senate resolution supporting Macedonia’s NATO membership, and in July 2008, together with Senator Olympia Snowe (R–Maine), he initially blocked the confirmation of U.S. Ambassador to Macedonia, Philip T. Reeker. In September 2009, Senator Menendez joined with Senator Snowe to publish an Op-Ed piece in the Washington Times calling Macedonia “intransigent” and urging the Administration to reverse its 2004 decision to call the country by its constitutional name, the ‘Republic of Macedonia.’ UMD believes that this consistent and implacable hostility to Macedonia is, itself, inconsistent with Senator Menendez’ larger responsibility to respect the views of all New Jersey citizens, including Macedonian-Americans, and to represent their interests in a fair and just manner.
UMD expressed their concerns to Senator Menendez, in a meeting in Newark, New Jersey, in October 2008. These concerns were featured in an article in the largest New Jersey newspaper, The Star-Ledger, in July 2008 following Senator Menendez’s refusal to meet with the Macedonian community. See: http://www.nj.com/news/index.ssf/2008/07/menendez_sides_with_greece_ove.html This was followed by a letter-writing campaign that resulted in thousands of letters being sent to the Senator.
By clicking HERE, Macedonian-Americans can write to Senator Menendez today and express their disappointment with the Senator’s consistently anti-Macedonian positions. A sample letter follows:
Dear Senator Menendez:
As a concerned American of Macedonian heritage, I am writing to express my disappointment with your decision to block S. Res. 673 – a resolution expressing the sense of the Senate that it values the active participation of the Republic of Macedonia as the state partner of the Vermont National Guard over the past 15 years.
Your persistent use of the term ‘FYROM,’ instead of the constitutional name for Macedonia that is accepted U.S. policy can be perceived as nothing less than a studied and calculated insult to me and hundreds of thousands of other Macedonian-Americans. Furthermore, your use of the term ‘FYROM’ undermines U.S. policy towards Macedonia and further contributes to instability and insecurity in Southeast Europe, by fanning anti-Macedonian sentiments among members of the current Government of the Hellenic Republic.
S. Res. 673 is a resolution, which recognizes the contributions Macedonia has made to our mission in Afghanistan. It is a fact that Macedonia is the fourth largest contributor to ISAF, and since 2006, patrols the ISAF headquarters in Kabul, Afghanistan. In welcoming returning Macedonian troops to Skopje, U.S. Ambassador Philip T. Reeker said the troops “contributed to supporting and building a stable democracy in Afghanistan. They return highly decorated, and with their outstanding performance, these soldiers have demonstrated the readiness of the Army of the Republic of Macedonia’s, its high level of training, and capacity to coordinate with NATO-led forces.”
Macedonia’s contributions to peace, democracy, stability and security in Southeast Europe, Afghanistan and elsewhere make it clear that Macedonia has been acting as a de facto member of NATO for some time. Macedonia’s future in Euro-Atlantic institutions, as well as the security and stability of Southeast Europe, must no longer be frustrated by the historically unique and curiously self-serving demands of the Greek state. Macedonia has met all the criteria for NATO membership as explicitly stated in the NATO’s 2008 Bucharest and 2010 Lisbon Declarations.
The ‘name issue’ was invented by the Hellenic Republic to prevent Macedonia from joining international organizations. It is an historical fact that, during the early 1990s, this position was fueled by many nationalists in the Hellenic Republic, including some leaders of the Greek Orthodox Church. The Government of Macedonia and its citizens have made herculean efforts and demonstrated remarkable patience — over a period of almost 20 years — to help the Hellenic Republic to resolve this unprecedented and artificial matter — in which the Hellenic Republic questions the sovereignty and the legitimacy of Macedonia’s name. The Hellenic Republic insisted that Macedonia change its flag and even its constitution to reassure the Hellenic Republic that Macedonia harbors no territorial aspirations against its territory.
The Hellenic Republic should have been the first to support Macedonia’s independence and to sponsor Macedonia’s membership in international organizations, not only because it is the proper thing to do, but also because, as one of the Hellenic Republic’s major trading partners in the region, it is in the Hellenic Republic’s interest to do so. Put simply, the Hellenic Republic’s political and commercial “neighborhood” – in which the Hellenic Republic and Macedonia are key members – would be more secure and successful if Macedonia were fully integrated into NATO and the EU.
The problem will be resolved when the Hellenic Republic recognizes that there is a Macedonia, a Macedonian people, a Macedonian language and a Macedonian national identity. Macedonia and Macedonians pose no threat to the Hellenic Republic, to its leaders, or to its people. The Hellenic Republic would be better served were it to embrace its neighbors. The international community, or more precisely, over 129 countries, including the United States, Mexico, Canada, Russia, and the United Kingdom, have overwhelmingly acknowledged that the sovereign right to name one’s own nation is a key franchise that belongs to any free people, including Macedonians. The Hellenic Republic continues to needlessly sully its own good name in the international community by maintaining its current odd and curious position.
I hope you will reconsider your strong opposition to Macedonia, to S. Res. 673, and base your decisions on U.S. policy and not policies put before you by the Government of the Hellenic Republic.
[Your Name Here]