On his official website, U.S. Senator Mike Lee has published his letter to the U.S. Ambassador to Macedonia, Jess Baily. “As you are keenly aware, the United States Senate plays a large role in not only Congressional oversight - preventing waste, fraud, and abuse of U.S. Government resources - but also in statecraft and foreign policy through reviewing treaties, as well as confirming individuals to top leadership roles. With these responsibilities in mind, I am inquiring into the role the U.S. Mission to Macedonia plays in the distribution of U.S. foreign aid in Macedonia, the ongoing and sometimes tumultuous Macedonian political landscape, and in shaping Macedonia’s media environment and civil society. It is important that this nation of 2.1 million, situated in a historically turbulent region, continues developing with as little outside political influence as possible. This is a critical time in Macedonia as their elected officials negotiate a new government in the aftermath of the parliamentary elections finally concluded this past December. Unfortunately, I have received credible reports that, over the past few years, the U.S. 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, often favouring groups of one political persuasion over another. I find these reports discouraging and, if true, highly problematic,” Lee says. In that regard, he respectfully requests that Baily answer several questions. “Please describe the role that you and other persons associated with the U.S. Mission to Macedonia played in the discussions that led to the scheduling of the parliamentary elections for 24 April 2016; the discussions that led to the postponement to 5 June; and the postponement of the parliamentary elections to 11 December. I hope in these dialogues all parties were consulted equally,” the Senator points out. Also, Lee asks whether the U.S. Mission to Macedonia has selected the Open Society Foundations as the major implementer of USAID projects in Macedonia. “And, is the Open Society Foundations perceived to have political bias by Macedonians? In this regard I would appreciate further information about the process by which projects and needs for Macedonia are assessed by U.S. officials in country before requests for proposals are written and grant recipients org program implementers selected,” he adds. Also, the Senator asks how many media outlets in Macedonia have received U.S. Government funding and what the names of those entities are. “Have you taken any action to influence the operations of these or any other media organisations? If so, what and why? Though Macedonia is a small country, I value the close relationship that has been formed between the United States and Macedonia over the 25 years since it achieved independence. The U.S. is encouraged by Macedonia’s political and economic development and appreciated Macedonia contributing to many of our country’s foreign policy priorities. I hope that as our own country transitions power, we are able to maintain a positive and unbiased relationship that prioritises mutual interests over political agendas. To succeed, we must avoid what some see as tendencies towards ideological imperialism and interference in the natural, democratic development of a country. I hope to receive from you accurate and prompt information in response to these questions no later than two weeks from the date of this letter. I also would welcome a meeting to discuss these matters the next time you are in Washington, D.C.,” Lee underlines. The letter is dated 17 January. The U.S. Embassy said on Tuesday it welcomed all questions from Congress. “We have responded to Senator Lee’s letter. We welcome questions from Congress and the opportunity to provide information about our activities and the context in which we work to achieve U.S. foreign policy objectives,” it pointed out.
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