Newly-appointed U.S. Ambassador to the Former Republic of Macedonia, Jess Lippincott Baily, has caused controversy in Skopje. The new ambassador took part in a nomination hearing in the Committee on Foreign Relations of the United States where he was asked a question by Democrat Senator Chris Murphy, Chairman of the Committee within the American Senate.
Specifically, Senator Murphy said:
You touched some recent concerns raised about ethnic tensions within Macedonia and, of course, ethnic reconciliation is a key element of lasting regional peace on the Balkans and so, you have a Slavic majority and Albanian minority, you’ve got reports of rising tensions and you got, as you mentioned, the Ohrid Agreement. What’s your understanding in where the Ohrid Agreement ?
Mr. Baily responded that the Framework Agreement has put an end to the civil conflict and has encouraged the active participation of the Albanian minority in the government and the economy of the country, and added:
I would note that within the fabric of Macedonian society there are more than Slavs and Albanians. There are Turks and there are Roma and others so this is a micro cosmos 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.
His reluctance to use “Macedonians” to label the residents of the FYROM aligns his opinions to those of Greece and his constant repetition of Slavs and Slavo-Macedonians have caused outbursts in FYROM with press articles pointing to Mr. Baily negating the so-called “Macedonian identity” that the people of FYROM believe they have.
In the long-standing name dispute between the FYROM and Greece, the Greek government has insisted that the FYROM has no right to use the name Macedonia or usurp ancient Macedonian symbols. As a result of this dispute, Athens has blocked the FYROM’s request for NATO and EU membership.