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News 08 Feb 17

US Congressman Slammed for Proposing New Balkan Borders

Politicians in the Balkans condemned Republican Congressman Dana Rohrabacher for suggesting that Serbia and Kosovo swap territory and for claiming that Macedonia is not a state.

BIRN Team
BIRN
Belgrade

Dana Rohrabacher. Photo: rohrabacher.house.gov

Politicians across the region have condemned Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, who is also chair of the US House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia and Emerging Threats, with some suggesting that he might undermine regional stability.

Rohrabacher told Albanian TV channel Vizion Plus that Macedonia is not a state and its territory should be shared out between Kosovo and Bulgaria.

A couple of days before, Rohrabacher also sent a letter to Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic proposing that mainly Albanian parts of southern Serbia should be swapped for the Serb-populated part of northern Kosovo [read the full letter].

The Macedonian foreign ministry said that the US State Department would not back Rohrabacher’s claim that Macedonia isn’t a country at all and its territory should be parcelled out to Albania and Bulgaria.

“We believe that the State Department will dispel any dilemma with regard to the positions presented and that it will affirm its policy toward Macedonia and the Balkans,” the foreign ministry said in a statement on Tuesday.

The Bulgarian government has not officially reacted to Rohrbacher’s claim that Macedonia should be divided up.

“Bulgaria has a principled and consistent position for the European and Euro-Atlantic integration of all countries from the Western Balkans,” Bulgaria’s foreign ministry told the BGNES news agency when asked for a comment on the congressman’s statement.

While Bulgaria generally nurtures positive relations with Serbia and Macedonia, differing readings of history often cause rows.

Bulgaria was the first country to recognise Macedonia when it proclaimed its independence from Yugoslavia in 1991.

But Sofia does not recognise the existence of a Macedonian language, separate from Bulgarian, and many Bulgarian historians still maintain that Macedonians are ethnic Bulgarians.

The so-called Macedonian question is an integral part of the Bulgarian national question, with many believing that Bulgaria should “restore” territories of Macedonia which it controlled in the past.

The Bulgarian nationalist party VMRO did not comment on the US congressman’s statement, but did post it on its Facebook page, receiving hundreds of approving reactions of approval to Rohrabacher’s suggestion.

Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic on Monday restated that his country’s constitution says the whole of the former province of Kosovo is Serbian territory.

Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008, but Belgrade refuses to recognise its sovereignty.

Vucic accused Rohrabacher of being linked to what he described as an “Albanian lobby”.  

Rohrbacher in the past has spoken approvingly about the Kosovo Liberation Army, saying that “in the Clinton years, armed Kosovars more than NATO troops pushed Serbian forces to give up their genocidal repression”.

Rohrabacher’s proposal for swapping territories was also dismissed by the mayor of Serbia's predominantly ethnic Albanian town of Presevo Sciprim Arifi, who said that it would undermine regional stability and go clearly against European Union policy.

However this might not trouble Rohrbacher as he has called for the demise of the EU, alleging that it exerts “gargantuan, centralized control over people’s lives”.

Rohrabacher is a somewhat controversial politician in the US.

The Politico website suggested in an article in November that he is “Putin’s favourite congressman”, wanting better relations with the Kremlin for the same reasons as US President Donald Trump.

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