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Clinton Omission of Macedonia in Balkan Tour Questioned

November 1, 2012

US Secretary of State’s omission of Macedonia from her Balkan tour appears to some like a diplomatic snub to Skopje – but the US embassy insists there is nothing to worry about.

Sinisa Jakov Marusic, Balkan Insight, 01.11.2012

 

Hillary Clinton in Kosovo | Photo by: kryeministri.ks.net

Macedonia’s government has been left smarting over Hillary Clinton‘s decision to visit almost every part of the former Yugoslavia – except for their part.

Clinton has already visited Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Kosovo and is finishing up with visits to Croatia and Albania.

The visit to the region was announced by the State Department as a means to demonstrate US interest, dedication and support for the Euro-Atlantic future of the Western Balkan countries.

“The fact that she is not coming [here] sends a diplomatic message to our authorities and means that she has nothing new to hear from them,” Mersel Biljali, an international law professor at Skopje’s FON University, said.

Biljali says that leaving out Macedonia from the itinerary “might be a form of pressure on the country to finally engage seriously in an effort to solve the ‘name’ issue with Greece.”

Macedonia needs a solution to this longstanding dispute if it is ever to advance its bids to join NATO and the EU.

In January 2011, during her previous visit to the region, Clinton also did not come to Macedonia.

In an open letter prior to this visit, the United Macedonian Diaspora, OMD, the biggest organization of Macedonians abroad, urged Clinton to include Macedonia and wrote that her potential omission of their country would “send a negative signal to the people of Macedonia”.

They reminded her that Macedonia is a strategic partner of the US and has been an active participant in the US-led war against terrorism.

The US embassy in Skopje say there is no reason for concern, however.

In a statement they explained that senior US representatives usually visit countries where America has “urgent or specific bilateral issues to discuss”.

They also noted the US deputy assistant secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs, Philip Reeker, has already visited Macedonia twice this year, the last time in August.

Reeker’s visits were seen as part of an effort to boost the stalled “name” talks between Skopje and Athens.

Athens objects to use of the name Republic of Macedonia, saying that this implies territorial claims towards its own northern province, also called Macedonia. As a result, it has blocked Macedonia’s moves to join NATO and open EU accession talks.

This is Clinton’s farewell visit to the Balkans in her current capacity, as she announced that whatever the outcome of the forthcoming US presidential elections, she intends to resign from her current post.

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