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26 Nov 10

I’m Tired of Being ‘The Girl From Macedonia’

Tanja Milevska

After the historic NATO Summit in Lisbon was over I came back home with mixed feelings.

Much as I enjoyed being present at one of the most significant gatherings of heads of states and leaders, where crucial decisions were taken and important discussions were initialized, it was one of those summits where you wish you worked for the media from any country except Macedonia.

This has nothing to do with a lack of patriotic feelings.  On the contrary, it’s just that our work in Lisbon couldn’t be more frustrating.

Take Macedonia’s President Georgi Ivanov.

He showed up for the meeting on Afghanistan, shook hands with US President Barack Obama, exchanged a few words with him, and all of a sudden it made headlines all over Macedonia.  

If at least the “informal meeting” (as they call the handshake) had brought any concrete progress on Macedonia’s protracted dispute over its name with Greece, it would have been newsworthy, but no!

Of course, the new strategic concept of the Alliance, the goal of pulling out of Afghanistan by 2014, the refreshed partnership with Russia - none of the issues of real global importance - were reported on seriously in the Macedonian media. It seems that nothing interests us except ourselves.

The worst, or funniest moment at the summit, depending on how you look at it, was the joint press conference of NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, UN Secretary General Ban-Ki Moon and President Karzai of Afghanistan.

I felt excited about having a chance to put a question to both secretary generals on the “name” issue, especially Ban-Ki Moon. I had prepared well. I wanted to ask him if it wasn’t time for the UN to recognize that, after 15 years, the negotiations on Macedonia’s name were a failure, having had absolutely no result.

But, of course the NATO spokesman already knew that my question would be related to Macedonia. I have acquired an image in the Brussels press rooms as “the girl from Macedonia who only asks questions about Macedonia”. Much as I joke about this with colleagues, in truth is it is becoming uncomfortable.

There I was in a huge press room with prominent journalists from all over the world fighting to put questions about the new global security challenges, while outside the venue peace activists were demonstrating against nuclear weapons and Portugal was readying for massive protests against poverty….  and all I could think about was the negotiations about Macedonia’s name.

I’m not saying the name issue is insignificant. But it would surely be a good thing if the country were to get out of that narrow hole and take a look at what’s going on outside. If nothing else, it would take some of the drama about the inevitable change to the name of our country.

As journalists, we have a duty to inform and be an open window to the world. That is not what we’ve been doing for the past few years.

Talk about it!

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Meet the Blogger

Tanja Milevska

Tanja-Milevska-thumb.jpg

Macedonian TV Correspondent based in Brussels, I spend most of my days trying to bring the EU closer to the Macedonian public and explaining what is the EU accession process really about. As boring as it may sound, it actually isn’t. Macedonia manages to make everything “interesting”, if you know what I mean.

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