Washington, 2 February 2017 (MIA) – Leading Republican House representative Christopher Smith announced an investigation in the activities of the US Embassy in Macedonia, and the allegations that it has acted in an openly partisan way in the past years, supporting the left wing SDSM party. The call comes after the Embassy failed to respond to a letter signed by Smith and five other GOP representatives, who demanded answers over meddling in domestic politics, but also over Embassy funding for activities of the George Soros led Foundation Open Society Macedonia.
“The US Ambassador should have absolutely no role in forming a Government and taking sides in putting together a coalition. That is not the place of the United States of America or its representative in Skopje. I asked specific questions in this letter. We asked, the group of members of the House of Representatives whether or not there was any collaboration with the center-left parties on when elections should take place. We should have no role in that! We should be talking about free and fair elections, unfettered access to the media, but in no way should we take sides. So, if this Ambassador has taken sides, he should be fired! He should be fired immediately!”, representative Smith told the Macedonian Television correspondent in Washington D.C.
Representative Smith reacts following numerous reports that the US Embassy has extended significant funds to activities of NGO groups associated with the Soros network. According to Smith, if the US Government gives funding to NGO activities, they should go to non-partisan and neutral groups, and not to the Soros led groups for whom there are long-standing allegations that they are coordinating their actions with the social-democratic SDSM party.
“I’m all for providing civil society funding, especially for free and fair elections. But, I’m absolutely and unalterably opposed to the United States Government taking sides in an election and trying, potentially, if this is true, to put together a coalition. How dare our Ambassador, if indeed he did, he should be in now way part of it! The message should be that, if the United States Government took sides, it made a grave mistake. Those who did it, need to apologize, they need to cease immediately, because, again, individuals who collude around the world need to be taken to account. It would be an outrage if our Ambassador or any of our staff in US Embassy Skopje took sides in this election or any election past, present or future. That’s not their place. So, we want to get to the bottom of this. We don’t have answers to these questions. I’m going to ask for an Inspector General’s report, and frankly if they have broken the law, they need be held to account”, adds Smith.
The letter was addressed to US Ambassador in Macedonia Jess Baily, and was sent on January 17th. It is signed by representatives Smith, Louie Gohmert, Randy Hultgren, Robert Aderholt, Robert Pittenger and Jeff Fortenberry, all members of the Republican Party, some of whom have strongly supported Macedonia in the past. The letter contains a series of questions to Ambassador Baily over the way he worked with the political parties in Macedonia, over allegations that he promoted positions favorable to the SDSM party, his funding of the George Soros led NGO groups and of media outlets who fall on the left side of the political divide. The letter coincides with a similar call from Senator Mike Lee, a Utah Republican who sat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Senator Lee called Ambassador Baily out via social media and asked him to provide clarity in his activities, after The Daily Caller reported on US Embassy activities to fund Soros groups in Macedonia.
“We sent a letter on January 17th to Ambassador Baily. We have not got an answer, and now it’s been two weeks. We expected an answer within days. I’m very disappointed in that. And it does beg the question as to whether or not US taxpayer funding that went to Soros, and was very much facilitated by the US Ambassador, took sides. When we provide education for civil society, there is no taking sides. It has to be about free media. I’m Chairman of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe Commission in the United States, I’m head of the delegation at Parliamentary assemblies. We do wonderful work as a group on election monitoring, to make sure elections are free, fair and that includes access to the media. But, if it looks like it does, that the US Government has been funding organizations that are taking sides, in this case the socialists’, that is absolutely unacceptable. I believe that it is illegal and we are going to get to the bottom of this. I’m asking tomorrow for an Inspector General’s report and investigation. I’ve asked very specific questions of Ambassador Baily that, again, have not gone answered. There should be, again, no taking sides. We should be promoting democracy, not a political party or coalition of political parties”, Christopher Smith said in his comments on the matter.
The letter prepared by him and the five other GOP representatives also contains strong language aimed at the work of Ambassador Jess Baily. “We value the close relationship that has been formed between the United States and Macedonia in the 25 years since it achieved independence. That relationship has allowed the US to contribute to Macedonia’s political and economic development – and Macedonia to cooperate with the United States, contributing to many of our country’s foreign policy priorities. It would obviously be profoundly destructive for that relationship were our country were to be perceived within Macedonia as interfering in its internal politics, media, and civil society in such a way as to consistently favor one group over another. We hope to receive from you accurate information in response to our questions no later than two weeks from the date of this letter. We also hope that you will be available to meet with us to discuss these matters the next time you are in Washington DC”, is the conclusion of the letter signed by the six representatives.
After the representatives failed to receive a response, they are now announcing an investigation in the allegations and say they will take the matter before the newly appointed Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. “I’m going to be in touch with him. I’ve already been in touch with transition people for the Trump administration. There needs to be a top to bottom review of what the US Government has been doing for these last eight years, because I’ve had signs elsewhere in the world where there have been instances like this. That creates a backlash against American public diplomacy and diplomacy itself. Again, it does not conform with the law. It is outrageous and if indeed these questions are not answered correctly and satisfactorily, again, he should be fired. We are going to do a probe, we are going to get to the bottom of this, because the damage could be an on-going damage of US complicity and collusion through NGOs and our Embassy. I want to know the answers. We are entitled to these answers! We have an oversight responsibility as members of Congress to ask these tough questions to keep this completely above board”, Smith told the Macedonian Television.
The letter informs Ambassador Baily that the representatives have heard “credible reports that, over the past two years, the US Mission to Macedonia has actively intervened in the party politics of Macedonia, as well as in the shaping of its media environment and civil society, in a manner that consistently favors the parties, media, and civil society groups of the center left over those of the center right. These include disturbing reports that the actions of the US Mission to Macedonia strongly favored the center-left parties in the run-up to the parliamentary elections, originally scheduled for April 24, later postponed to June 5th, and then finally held on December 11th, and in the post election process by which the Macedonian parties are now negotiating to form a new Government”.
Specific sets of questions addressed to the Ambassador include: ”
– Has the US Mission to Macedonia selected the Foundation Open Society – Macedonia (FOSM) as the major implementer of USAID projects in Macedonia? Is FOSM perceived in Macedonia as politically biased? Do the activities of FOSM show a political bias? Do the NGOs, media entities, and projects funded by FOSM have an agenda that corresponds to or favors that of the center-left and / or left in Macedonia?
– How many media outlets received US Government funds (through FOSM or otherwise) and what are their names? How many media outlets in Macedonian language that have received US Government funds are politically oriented to the center left? How many to the center right? Has the US Mission in Macedonia promoted the adoption by the Macedonian Government of a media regulation that would limit free speech in a way inconsistent with the first amendment to the United States Constitution?
– Have any NGOs that receive US Government funds (including through FOSM or otherwise) taken sides in teh election or in the formation of the next Macedonian Government? For each NGO, what sides have they taken?
– Please describe the role that you and other persons associated with the US Mission to Macedonia played in the discussions that led to the scheduling of the parliamentary elections. It is particularly relevant to know whether and how the position represented by the US Mission to Macedonia corresponds or not to those of the various Macedonian political parties.
The letter also expresses the hope that role of the Ambassador was not improperly partisan.