“Macedonia is a country ready to create the bonds that will unite generations from the past with the Macedonia of the future."
At 22 years old, the Republic of Macedonia is one of the world’s newest countries. Macedonia has overcome many hurdles on its path to becoming a democratic and prosperous state, fully integrated into the Euro-Atlantic community. With a multi-cultural society marked by strong ethnic divisions, Macedonia has lacked a clear shared culture to bring its citizens together.
What does it mean then to be a Macedonian citizen? “After centuries of border shifts and being part of other states and empires, the Republic of Macedonia finally stands as a country unto itself,” said U.S. Ambassador to Macedonia Paul Wohlers in a December 18 speech to university students in Skopje. “For 22 years you have worked to overcome the difficult yet inevitable obstacles along the way of creating a new country, to become what you are today – a country of diversity, of great natural beauty and abundance, with boundless talent, energy, and promise,” he said.
“Macedonia is a country ready to create the bonds that will unite generations from the past with the Macedonia of the future – ready to become one country, with one future.”
As a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural country, Macedonia has much in common with the United States’ own experience. “We too are a multi-ethnic society that has lived through periods of internal conflict. So I would make one suggestion for you to consider – to look at what worked for us,” said Ambassador Wohlers.
Americans do not share a common culture, but rather a unifying system of core beliefs, as expressed in foundational documents such as the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. These are the elements that hold Americans together, said Ambassador Wohlers. “Although diversity undeniably enriches America, it is unity that sustains and preserves us as a country.”
A person’s cultural, ethnic and religious identity is part of their character, but it does not define them as citizens. They can be proud of their background even as they stand united by their principles as citizens, looking forward as one country to a common future.
Because, as Ambassador Wohlers said, “Nothing less than the shape of your future as a nation is what is at stake.”