Rift Grows Between U.S. State Department and Congress over Macedonia in NATO

April 27, 2012 – Washington, D.C. – On April 26, the U.S. House Subcommittee on Europe exposed a growing rift on Capitol Hill.  The U.S. State Department appears to be increasingly at odds with members of Congress and NGO experts over Macedonia’s long-overdue NATO membership.

“It was encouraging to see Representatives confronting the U.S. State Department’s disappointing statements head on,” said United Macedonian Diaspora (UMD) President Metodija A. Koloski. “In particular, they clarified why it is in the U.S. national interest to extend a full membership invitation to Macedonia at the NATO Chicago Summit.  They also focused on the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruling last December, which confirmed that Greece’s ongoing veto of Macedonia is in violation of international law.”

Congressman Dan Burton (R-IN) chaired the Europe Subcommittee Hearing entitled “NATO and U.S. Policy at the Chicago Summit,” which included Congressman Gregory Meeks (D-NY), Ranking Member of the Committee, Congresswoman Jean Schmidt (R-OH), Congressman Elliot Engel (D-NY), Congressman Ted Poe (R-TX), Congressman Tim Griffin (R-AR), and Congressman Ted Deutch (D-FL).  All members of Congress urged the Administration to send aspirant nations a strong signal that NATO’s “Open Door Policy” is still relevant to the United States.   

Panel speakers included: Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Tina Kaidanow, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense James J. Townsend, Jr., Executive Vice President of the Atlantic Council Damon Wilson, Heritage Foundation Fellow Luke Coffey, and Steven Flanagan from the Center for Strategic and International Studies.  Witnesses discussed the future of NATO as an institution, its presence in the Western Balkans, and the impact of the upcoming NATO Summit, including the vital issue of enlargement.

Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Kaidanow acknowledged Macedonia’s progress, saying: “Macedonia has fulfilled key criteria required of NATO members and has contributed to regional and global security.”  However, she then went on to emphasize a “mutually acceptable solution” for the name dispute, while ignoring that Macedonia’s NATO Membership Action Plan – granted in 1999 and fully completed in 2008 – made no mention of this criteria.  Kaidanaow also carefully avoided mentioning the ICJ ruling, which declared Greece’s veto of Macedonia’s NATO membership illegal. In fact, Greece waived its right to veto Macedonia’s membership over the name dispute, under the terms of the 1995 Interim Agreement. Greece is now claiming a right it no longer has.

While Administration representatives talked at length about a strong “open door policy” for NATO, Congress members and independent experts were much more direct about what that means, especially in the case of Macedonia.  

Congresswoman Schmidt noted: “It is not too late to correct the injustice of denying Macedonia membership, and hopefully NATO will address this at the upcoming Summit.”  Congresswoman Schmidt challenged Ms. Kaidanow and Mr. Townsend for suggesting that the Nimitz negotiations be concluded before NATO membership would be offered.

Congressman Ted Poe emphasized the need for contributing partners like Macedonia to become full NATO members, “not just to protect the tent.” He also reiterated Macedonia’s significant contributions to ISAF in Afghanistan, and that the recent judgment of the ICJ be taken into consideration.  

The Heritage Foundation’s Luke Coffey was outspoken on the issue, stating that Macedonia was “more than ready” for full NATO membership.  He also said: “Since taking office, President Obama has done little to support the membership of qualified candidates.  NATO’s ‘open door policy’ is critical to mobilizing Europe and its allies around a collective transatlantic defense.  According to Article 10 of the North Atlantic Treaty, any European state that fulfills the requirements of the treaty and demonstrates the competency to contribute to the alliance’s security is eligible for membership.  The U.S. should take steps to make sure that the open door policy is not stifled.”

Coffey added: “Upon completing its Membership Action Plan (MAP) in 2008, Macedonia anticipated an invitation to join the alliance at the NATO summit in Bucharest.  Yet, despite fulfilling all necessary requirements for membership, Macedonia’s accession was unilaterally vetoed by Greece, with which (Macedonia) is engaged in a long-standing dispute regarding its constitutional name.  The International Court of Justice found last December that Greece’s veto was in blatant violation of the 1995 United Nations-brokered Interim Accord, in which Athens agreed not to impair Macedonia’s integration into Europe.  Greece has jeopardized NATO’s open door policy, and NATO members should pressure Greece to work with Macedonia, to seek reconciliation.”

To see the open letter to President Obama over the need to offer full NATO membership to Macedonia at the Chicago Summit, please click Here (54 Members of Congress Urge Obama to Invite Macedonia During Chicago Summit )



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