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News 22 Sep 14

Macedonia Criticises New US Ambassador

Macedonia is sending a protest note to the United States after the newly-appointed American ambassador to Skopje called Macedonians “Slavs” during a hearing at the US Senate.

Sinisa Jakov Marusic

The newly-appointed US ambassador to Macedonia, Jess Baily

The Macedonian Foreign Ministry said that it will summon the US deputy ambassador to Skopje first thing on Monday to convey its dissatisfaction about the statement by the American diplomat Jess Baily.

“The ministry is reacting to the inappropriate use of the term 'Slavs' by the newly-appointed US ambassador to Macedonia,” the Ministry said in a press release.

Last Wednesday, at a hearing in front of the US Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee, Baily used the term 'Macedonians' several times to describe the majority population in the country. He mentioned the term 'Slavs', which is seen as derogatory to some Macedonians, only once during the hearing.

“I would note that within the fabric of Macedonian society there are more than ‘Slavs and Albanians’. There are Turks, there are Roma and others, so this is a microcosmos in many ways of the richness of the Balkans and to get all those populations to see a common future, I think the US can play important role given our own history and our own set of values,” said Bailey.

Despite their Slavic origin, some Macedonians see the term ‘Slav’ as derogatory in relation to the country's longstanding dispute with neighbouring Greece over the name Macedonia.

Greece insists that Macedonia’s name, and implicitly the denomination ‘Macedonian’ implies territorial claims to its own northern province, also called Macedonia, and has blocked Macedonia's accession to NATO and progress towards European Union membership.

However the USA recognised Macedonia’s constitutional name in 2004, attracting the wrath of NATO member Greece.

In his speech before the Senate, the new US ambassador noted that Macedonia was an important ally. He said that during his term in Skopje, he will pay particular attention to the improvement of media freedoms and trust in the judiciary in Macedonia.

Ambassador Baily, who is  expected to arrive to Macedonia soon, is a career Foreign Service officer. He comes to Macedonia after serving as chief of mission in the US embassy in Ankara.

In 2010, Baily was named director of the Office of Southeast European Affairs, where he managed bilateral relations between the United States and Turkey, Greece and Cyprus.

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