On December 11, 2017, the Embassy of the Republic of Macedonia in Washington, D.C., the Defense Attaché, Colonel Metodi Hadji-Janev, and the United Macedonian Diaspora (UMD) hosted an Awards Ceremony at the Embassy attended by over forty guests from the diplomatic community, the different branches of Macedonian and U.S. military, and the Macedonian-American community.
The UMD Macedonia Public Service Award was presented to Lieutenant General Metodija Velichkovski, the Chief of the General Staff of the Army of the Republic of Macedonia, for his outstanding service to the armed forces of Macedonia by UMD DMV Region Chair David Turkaleski.
The UMD Macedonia Friendship Award was presented to Major General Steven A. Cray, Adjutant General of the State of Vermont, for his strong friendship to Macedonia by UMD President Metodija A. Koloski. 2018 will mark the 25th anniversary of the Vermont-Macedonia sister-states partnership.
Earlier in the day, UMD President was invited to join a meeting between long-time Macedonia friend Luke Coffey at The Heritage Foundation and Lieutenant General Velichkovski, joined by Colonel Timothy Buchen from the U.S. Embassy Macedonia, to discuss Macedonia’s NATO aspirations.
The following day, on December 12, 2017, UMD held a Congressional lunch briefing attended by around twenty-five guests—with the help of the Congressional Caucus on Macedonia and Macedonian-Americans— highlighting the Vermont National Guard State Partnership with the Republic of Macedonia – a candidate for NATO membership, and the challenges facing Macedonia, including the migrant crisis and the issue of freedom fighters. Several Congressional offices were represented at the briefing.
Lieutenant General Velichkovski noted, “For Macedonia there is no other alternative than Euro-Atlantic integration. Since our independence we have constantly invested in this process, we remain and will be committed to stay on this course.”
Macedonia’s government recently made a decision to increase their participation in Afghanistan by 20% and their defense-spending budget by 0.2% annually till they reach NATO requirement of 2% – a signal that Macedonia wants a future in NATO.
“One of the most highlighted cooperation events of the nearly 24-year-old program is the co-deployment of 79 soldiers of the Macedonian Army and the 86th Infantry Combat Team of Vermont in 2010 (in Afghanistan). That deployment was so successful that we are actively planning another co-deployment in a few years from now. The Vermont National Guard is grateful to the Army of Macedonia and the Macedonian people for their commitment to global security cooperation,” stressed Major General Cray.
UMD helped arrange a visit by Lieutenant General Velichkovski to Sts. Kiril and Metodij Macedonian Orthodox Church in Cedar Grove, New Jersey on December 7, 2017 where he spoke before the Macedonian-American community and members of the Macedonian Human Rights Movement of New Jersey.