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Macedonias friends in the US Congress
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Mike Turner knows something about the Balkans.  The US Representative, a member of the Republican Party, is from the state of Ohio.  In 1995, he was the mayor of the city of Dayton, Ohio.  You might recall that city for the so-called Dayton Accords or the Dayton Agreement which put an “end” to the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina.  Having been elected to the US House of Representatives in 2003, he is also Chairman to the NATO Parliamentary Assembly and, more recently, co-chairman of the Macedonian Caucus, an informal congressional caucus.

Two weeks ago, he sponsored legislation in the US House of Representatives, House Resolution 4243, the “NATO Enhancement Act of 2012.”  I’m excited and encouraged by this piece of legislation for a couple of reasons.  First, under “Section 2, Findings” the resolution reads:

“Congress makes the following findings:”

“(27) On April 4, 2009, at the Strasbourg/Kehl NATO Summit, President Barack Obama stated, ‘I’d also like to note that as we welcome Albania and Croatia to NATO, this will not be the last time that we have such a celebration, and I look forward to the day when we can welcome Macedonia to the Alliance. The door to membership will remain open for other countries that meet NATO's standards and can make a meaningful contribution to allied security.’”

Even more importantly, under point number 30 it reads:

“The Republic of Macedonia should not have been denied NATO Membership in 2008.”

That, quite frankly, is amazing.  That is the first time I have seen an elected representative in the US Government publicly state that Macedonia should not have been denied membership in NATO in 2008.  Bravo for Representative Turner!

Clearly, Representative Turner is a good friend of Macedonia.  And the good news is that he is just one of many friends of Macedonia in the US Congress.

Just last week, the Congressional Caucus on Macedonia and Macedonian-Americans (informally known as the Macedonian Caucus) held its first ever briefing on Macedonia.  Over 50 people attended and Representative Mike Turner, along with his co-chairman of the Caucus, Representative Candice Miller from the state of Michigan, hosted the event which focused on the upcoming NATO Summit in Chicago next month.  Representative Miller stated in the briefing that “If Macedonian troops can be counted on and trusted to guard the NATO tent in Afghanistan, then they should be invited to sleep in the NATO tent as full members of the alliance.”  Amen to that!

The United Macedonian Diaspora, the largest Macedonian diaspora group in the world, has worked very hard over the past year and has helped to bring together the Macedonian Caucus and they should be applauded for their work.  They have been instrumental in bringing attention to Macedonia, in capitals around the world, and that attention is paying off.  Working together with Ambassador Zoran Jolevski in Washington, DC and with other friends of Macedonia, the caucus’ first act was to gather even more members of the US Congress to write a letter to President Obama and other officials in his administration.

That letter was signed by 54 members of the US House of Representatives and sent to President Barack Obama asking his administration to “to make sure that NATO finally offers the Republic of Macedonia its well-deserved formal invitation to join the Alliance during the Chicago Summit.” Reiterating that Macedonia had achieved all criteria for membership at the NATO Summit in Bucharest in April of 2008, the letter again explained Macedonia’s commitment to NATO, listing Macedonia’s achievements in supporting NATO throughout the world including its troop commitment to Afghanistan and its commitment to stability in Southeastern Europe.

The letter closed stating that “The United States and our NATO allies should respond positively to these efforts by supporting Macedonia’s aspirations to be formally integrated into NATO.  We strongly urge your administration to work in partnership with our NATO allies to complete the process begun at the 1999 Washington Summit when Macedonia was granted its Membership Action Plan and extend a formal invitation to Macedonia to join NATO at the Chicago Summit this May.”

Having spent many years working in Washington, DC, I can attest that this seems to be a turning point for Macedonia in the US House of Representatives.  Never has there been this much positive attention and support focused on Macedonia.  I remain doubtful that Macedonia will actually receive an invitation to join NATO at the Chicago Summit, but these actions – the legislation, the formation of the Macedonian Caucus and the letter signed by 54 members – is a very positive and encouraging sign for Macedonia as it relates to the House of Representatives.  Bravo for all of those involved!

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Jason Miko
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