UMD Responds to Ridiculous Recent Op-ed

The United Macedonian Diaspora (UMD) rejects the August 8 op-ed attacking it on the site. We don’t know whether we should be amused by this sophomoric smear or file a libel suit. In any case, the op-ed writer’s collection of false accusations is but only the most recent example of misinformation and posturing from ill-informed and/or disingenuous detractors. As the old Macedonian saying goes, “what troubles me is not that you are lying, but that you think I will believe you”!

Democratic principles allow individuals to express their opinions freely, even when they may be total fabrications and defamatory. However, readers will do well to express some healthy skepticism when someone makes fantastical allegations, as the op-ed writer did – particularly when the individual was not even present at the debates to which he refers. His hatchet job has to be countered – which we do below, setting the record straight with the facts. But we can’t help but wonder if the writer should focus his energies on becoming a novelist – so his creativity and penchant for conspiracy theories might be better served. In any case, here are relevant facts:

1. On July 18, 2014, the Southeast Europe Coalition, an informal body of registered as 501 (c)(3) charitable organizations under U.S. law, in conjunction with the Richard G. Lugar Institute for Diplomacy and Congress at the German Marshall Fund, hosted a Congressional briefing on energy concerns and options in Southeast Europe following the G7 Summit.

2. The briefing was an excellent opportunity to bring the region back into focus. Macedonia’s NATO membership was brought up throughout the briefing, and there was general agreement that Macedonia should immediately be invited to join NATO. A full summary of the briefing can be found by clicking HERE.

3. The briefing was never intended to be pro- or anti-Russian, or pro- or anti-South Stream, but rather allow an open platform for Washingtonian energy security experts to discuss current energy infrastructure in Southeast Europe, as well as opportunities in the U.S. and EU markets. The Southern Gas Corridor, South Stream, TAP, Nabucco, and other projects were discussed throughout the briefing.

4. Neither UMD nor its President have ever publicly called into question Macedonia’s goal to have access to South Stream, nor have they issued any statements that would be seen as pro- or anti-Russian. UMD maintains a representative for Russia in St. Petersburg, and has maintained a good relationship with Russia’s diplomats in Washington, D.C. and at the United Nations.

5. UMD’s President did publicly state in an interview with the Voice of America (click HERE to watch the video in Macedonian) that the U.S. should get more actively involved in helping the Southeast Europe region develop better energy infrastructure.

6. One of the speakers, not related to UMD or part of UMD, did call on Macedonia, among others like Bulgaria and Serbia, to withdraw support for South Stream. UMD cannot, nor does it intend to try to, control statements made by speakers at UMD or other events.

7. Especially given recent developments in Ukraine, and the resultant sanctions placed on Russia by the U.S. and the EU, UMD strongly believes that Macedonia and the region should develop a multi-faceted energy security strategy, which will be more diverse and not as dependent on any single source.

8. UMD strongly believes that Macedonia needs to have secure and affordable access to gas from multi-suppliers if possible, to reduce its supply risks as well as lower the price that Macedonians pay.

9. UMD is not a registered lobbying entity, as the author of the op-ed asserts. Nor does it have hidden donors or secret agendas. Instead, UMD’s policies and viewpoints are informed by the opinions of its membership and generous donors, are approved by UMD’s Board of Directors, and are executed by its President.

10. UMD has never advanced the agenda of any government. Nor does it represent the U.S. government or any government for that matter, nor will UMD allow itself to be pressured by any government, group or individual to maintain certain policies or viewpoints. By its charter and in practice — as a not-for-profit organization — UMD exists solely to promote, advance and educate the public and policy makers around the world about issues affecting Macedonia and Macedonian identifying people.

UMD is a champion of free speech, expression and diversity of opinion. UMD frequently organizes public debates on various topics facing Macedonia and the region, and has provided an equal opportunity for all viewpoints to be heard. Regrettably, the op-ed writer appears to have an opaque agenda that is not served by honest and factual debate.

Founded in 2004, UMD is a leading international non-governmental organization promoting Macedonia and the needs of Macedonians globally. Over the past ten years, UMD has brought educational advocacy on behalf of these interests to a new level.

Being the first-ever Macedonian organization to open an office in Washington, D.C. — just a block from the White House — UMD has worked on behalf of important Macedonian causes, including gaining recognition of Macedonia’s rightful and constitutional name, gaining accession into Euro-Atlantic institutions, safeguarding Macedonian civil rights, promoting our rich Macedonian culture, and instilling pride in our younger generations.

UMD has held four successful Global Conferences – which brought together over 2,000 guests from 26 countries. UMD has also had a score of advocacy and philanthropic successes — including founding the first ever Congressional Caucus on Macedonia, gaining staunch support for Macedonia’s NATO membership from numerous policymakers, donating approximately $30,000 in scholarships to Macedonian students, donating over $35,000 in humanitarian aid to orphans and others less fortunate in Macedonia, donating over $50,000 for cultural promotion of Macedonia, and hosting over 40 student interns at UMD’s office since 2008.

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