With the Republic of Macedonia’s pending accession to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), Canada should stand up as a strong supporter of the Balkan nation, said Ljuben Tevdovski, the nation’s ambassador to Canada.
Western’s History and Political Science departments, in association with the Undergraduate Program in International Relations, are hosting Tevdovski on campus this week. The ambassador will deliver a lecture, The Dilemma of NATO Enlargement: What Can Canada Do to Strengthen NATO?, at 1 p.m. Wednesday, March 21 in Social Science Centre, Room 9420.
Canada and Macedonia have much in common, Tevdovski said, noting as a result of the “positive bilateral relations of the two countries” and the latter’s anticipated support of Macedonia, NATO will benefit greatly.
Tevdovski’s native country, despite not being a NATO member, has already played a key role in the organization’s missions, such as those in Bosnia, Lebanon and Afghanistan, and has been a “mass exporter of security” in recent years.
“What is interesting to speak of is the big earnings and sacrifices small countries are doing for the NATO alliance. Macedonia is one of the highest ISAF (International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan) mission contributors; it’s the fourth per capita. And we are a strong ally for NATO missions in Kosovo and Serbia; we are the main headquarters for KFOR (Kosovo Force peacekeeping mission),” he said.
“It’s interesting, from a Canadian point of view, because Canada is making investments into international peace as a big country, but small countries are doing that as well.”
Macedonia also has a growing economy – ninth in the world in GDP expenditure – and can be compared to Canada in a lot of ways, Tevdovski added.
“Macedonia is well known as an oasis of peace in Balkans. It was the only country that went out of Yugoslavia without conflict,” he said. “It is well known for standards of human rights and minority rights in Eastern Europe.”
He noted Macedonia houses many refugees from nations involved in the Balkan wars of the 1990s, all who live peacefully with the country’s constitution making considerations for different languages, cultures and traditions.
“We have many displaced people and many of them are very integrated in our society,” he said.
It’s these common goals and values that posit Canada and Macedonia as strong partners. “Being a multicultural and multiethnic country both in Macedonia and Canada makes us much stronger advocates in other places of the world where there are conflicts,” he said.
What’s more, a large, established Macedonian community in Canada of roughly 200,000 has contributed to our society, and represents a large Canadian population that would be in favour of voicing Canada’s support for Macedonia’s accession to NATO.
“We would like Canada to be as vocal as possible in its support for Macedonia’s accession to NATO membership,” he said.
In light of the upcoming NATO summit, Tevdovski will be sharing the above message with students during his visit to campus this week.
“What we are about to share with students are the very strong ties that (Macedonia) has, the upcoming challenges for the NATO alliance and how new countries can enter and help with upcoming problems,” he said.
The role of the ambassador, Tevdovski said, is to find potential for connections between two nations. He said he hopes to establish similar connections with Western as those Macedonia already has with the University of Toronto.
“And I strongly believe in the cultural and educational exchange as one of the most essential components in the relationship (Canada and Macedonia) have.”