- The Washington Times - Friday, June 12, 2009

NO NAMES, PLEASE

The new deputy prime minister of Macedonia declined repeatedly Thursday to discuss the one issue that is keeping his country out of NATO and the European Union.

Ivica Bocevski told reporters at the National Press Club that the dispute with Greece over the formal name of his nation is the responsibility of other Macedonian officials, who are negotiating with their Greek counterparts.

Greece objects to the use of the name, Macedonia, because it is a region in modern Greece and historically associated with Alexander the Great. Although Alexander was born in the capital of ancient Macedonia, his birthplace has long been part of modern Greece.

Greeks say Macedonia hijacked the name to establish a stronger claim to Alexander, even naming the national airport after the Greek conqueror and planning an eight-story-high statue of Alexander in the Macedonian capital, Skopje.

Greece continues to object to Macedonia’s membership in NATO and the European Union until the name dispute is settled. The country was admitted to the United Nations under the provisional name of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

The United States and more than 120 other nations recognize the country as Macedonia.

Mr. Bocevski, on his first visit to Washington as deputy prime minister, talked around the name dispute, as he complained of problems from Macedonia’s isolation from European institutions.

He noted that his mother traveled throughout Europe on a Yugoslav passport when Macedonia was a province in the former communist nation. But since independence in 1991, Macedonians have been required to get visas to visit other European countries because the nation is not part of the European Union.

Mr. Bocevski, who will turn 32 next week, said most of his generation of Macedonians have never traveled outside their small Balkan nation.

“Closing the borders has also closed the minds of a generation of Macedonia,” he said, adding that the isolation can cause a political backlash against Europe.

“Macedonians could fall prey to xenophobes and populists in the region,” Mr. Bocevski said. “Closing the region has only made the situation worse.”

He is meeting with State Department officials and members of Congress and speaking at a conference on Macedonia.

SHAME! SHAME!

The Organization of American States is making a “mockery” of its Democratic Charter by inviting Cuba back into the 35-nation alliance, according to a former Costa Rican ambassador who now directs a leading Latin American think tank in Washington.

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