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Opposition to H. Res. 356

Floor Speech

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC


OPPOSITION TO H. RES. 356 -- (Extensions of Remarks - October 03, 2007)

SPEECH OF HON. BILL PASCRELL, JR. OF NEW JERSEY IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

* Mr. PASCRELL. Madam Speaker, I rise today with grave concern over H. Res. 356. This resolution is based on unfounded allegations and misinformation about the Republic of Macedonia, and I urge my colleagues to consider the whole story as they review this bill.

* For example, the name ``the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM)'' is used throughout this resolution. It is a controversial name that Macedonia rejects in favor of its constitutional name, ``The Republic of Macedonia.'' This is a position shared by 118 other nations, including the United States, which officially recognized Macedonia by its constitutional name in 2004.

* It is important to note that Macedonia has always emphasized that the Republic of Macedonia does not hold exclusive rights over the name ``Macedonia'' in geographic, cultural, historic, or commercial terms. Although Greece objects to Macedonia's constitutional name, the Macedonian government rightly believes that one country does not have the right to dictate to another country what it can call itself. The Republic of Macedonia earned the right to self-determination when it declared its independence from Yugoslavia in 1991, and it intends to continue to exercise that right.

* H. Res. 356 also states that Macedonia produces and distributes propaganda asserting a right to territory in Greece, which is also untrue. This is based on the fact that Greece and Macedonia both include areas of the historic region of Macedonia, and Greece is concerned that Macedonia has irredentist ambitions against their Macedonian region.

* However, in 1995 Macedonia reinforced the ``no-change'' of borders provision of their Constitution, adding that they ``have no territorial claim against neighboring states.'' Of course, a small, developing democracy with only 2 million people could not and will not take over land that belongs to Greece, a large, established country of over 10 million people. Macedonia wants only peace with its neighbor, and has repeatedly stated this fact.

* In addition, the resolution claims that a Macedonian Military Academy textbook contains maps showing that a Greater Macedonia extends many miles south into Greece to Mount Olympus and miles east to Mount Pirin in Bulgaria.

* Not only is the book in question no longer in use in the academy, the maps the resolution refers to were originally drawn in the 1800s by non-Macedonians. They are presented in a historical light. Furthermore, the textbooks used in the general educational system in the Republic of Macedonia do not contain any maps of this kind.

* H. Res. 356 also mentions that Macedonia's Skopje airport was recently renamed ``Alexander the Great'' airport, and implies that Macedonia is asserting ``patrimony'' over the historical figure. Alexander the Great is a significant figure in human history and part of the universal consciousness, over which no country has ownership. Another Macedonian airport, in Ohrid, was recently named after ``Apostle Paul,'' a universally known historic figure, and Macedonia has heard little protest.

* Contrary to the allegations made in this bill, the Republic of Macedonia has actively sought to positively engage in international affairs and to negotiate in good faith with its Greek neighbors.

* Macedonia has consistently sought to improve relations with Greece, even changing its national flag due to Greek concerns in 1995. Although political relations between Greece and Macedonia are frozen, Greece is the top investor in Macedonia, and bilateral trade is strong.

* The Republic of Macedonia is also a committed ally of the United States. Macedonia has provided troops to serve alongside our brave men and women in Iraq and Afghanistan, and continues to seek full membership in NATO and the European Union.

* As a Member of Congress with both Macedonian and Greek constituents, I follow both Greek and Macedonian issues closely. Given this, it is my opinion that H. Res. 356 is confrontational and unnecessary. As negotiations between Greece and Macedonia continue on issues including the latter country's name, I believe it is important for Members of Congress to support the process so that the two countries can resolve their differences bilaterally. Inflammatory rhetoric by uninvolved parties has the potential to be detrimental to this complex process.

* Madam Speaker, thank you for this opportunity to air my concerns about this bill. I urge my colleagues to carefully consider all the facts about H. Res. 356.


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