The United Macedonian Diaspora (UMD), as a leading non-partisan, non-governmental organization promoting Macedonia and the interests and needs of Macedonians abroad, reached out to the office of the new Prime Minister of the Republic of Macedonia, Zoran Zaev, to arrange a meeting.
UMD Chairman Stojan Nikolov met face-to-face with the Prime Minister on July 14, 2017 in Skopje, Macedonia as a follow-up to an hour-long phone call on June 27, 2017 between UMD Chairman Stojan Nikolov, UMD President Metodija A. Koloski, UMD Vice President Aleksandar Mitreski, and Prime Minister Zoran Zaev.
During the meetings, UMD officials briefed the Prime Minister on UMD’s influential work in Washington, D.C. and around the world to advocate for Macedonia’s socio-economic stability and sovereign territorial integrity, and in particular UMD’s encouragement of the Trump Administration to conduct a high-level delegation visit to Macedonia. Prime Minister Zaev thanked UMD for its extensive work in educating policy makers on Macedonia’s NATO membership, and reiterated the strong support extended to Macedonia by Vice President Mike Pence on behalf of the Trump Administration.
UMD urged Prime Minister Zaev to uphold Macedonia’s rightful and constitutional name – a change to such is non-negotiable as per UMD official policy. UMD stands ready to assist the new government in protecting the national interests of the Republic of Macedonia. In terms of “good-neighborly relations,” UMD believes Macedonia must have excellent relations with its neighbors; however, this must not come at the expense of Macedonia’s sovereignty and right to self-determination as a nation-state. UMD Chairman Nikolov reiterated the need for Bulgaria to recognize the distinct Macedonian language and create policy reforms to recognize the Macedonian minority within Bulgaria’s borders.
UMD reminds the Macedonia’s Balkan neighbors and the European Union that “good-neighborly relations” are a two way street. History has shown numerous invasions of Macedonia by its neighbors and negating of our Macedonian identity as if it is still the 19th century. For too long, the European Union and the U.S. have turned a blind eye, particularly to recent inflammatory comments made in the region and nationalist behavior of Macedonia’s neighbors. UMD strongly believes that European values and “good-neighborly relations” must be upheld by all countries.
In response to recent demands by Macedonian political parties representing the Albanian minority in Macedonia, UMD Chairman Nikolov stressed that the Albanian minority is fully protected under Macedonian law and thus enjoy all liberties that a democracy can offer – Macedonia is a regional leader on minority rights. Nikolov urged Prime Minister Zaev to work on enforcing the current anti-corruption laws rather than spending unnecessary energy on creating new ones that will undermine the sovereign unitary character of Macedonia. Furthermore, Nikolov reminded Prime Minister Zaev that a census in the country is well overdue – the last census being 2002, 15 years ago. In response, the Prime Minister agreed and pledged that a census will be conducted within the next two years.
UMD commended Prime Minister Zaev for dedicating a member of his cabinet, Minister Edmond Ademi to be responsible for Diaspora Affairs; such an appointment has not been seen in over a decade. UMD stressed the need to elevate this office to a full Ministry to build bridges between the Diaspora and the homeland, and encouraged the opening of Consulates in Los Angeles, California, and in Perth and Sydney, in Australia. In an effort to facilitate voting in the Diaspora, both Prime Minister Zaev and UMD agreed there must be electronic voting for Diaspora members, especially for those who do not have direct access to a Macedonian diplomatic office.
UMD officials briefed Prime Minister Zaev in regards to the UMD Bitove Scholarship, which assists students from Macedonia studying abroad, the UMD Ajvar 5K race benefiting children with special needs in Macedonia, renovations of the Stajkovci hospital following the devastating August 2016 floods, as well as UMD’s Birthright Macedonia program, which brings students of Macedonian descent to Macedonia on a three-week experiential learning opportunity, now in its third year. Birthright Macedonia participants, UMD Advisory Council member Peter Dallas, and our local partner who administers the Birthright Macedonia program in Macedonia, Macedonian Center for International Cooperation First Executive Director Aleksandar Krzalovski and BRM manager Jasmina Chaushoska met with Prime Minister Zaev who commended them for staying connected to their homeland and helping improve Macedonian relations with their Diaspora.
UMD Chairman Stojan Nikolov thanked the Prime Minister for his time and expressed gratitude in his willingness to build relations with UMD and to consider the needs and interests of the Macedonian Diaspora community abroad.