AUSTRALIAN EMBASSY TO REMAIN IN BELGRADE
by Sasha Uzunov
TEAM UZUNOV exclusive - Australia rules out moving embassy to Skopje, Macedonia - Canberra regards Serbia of more strategic importance.
Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) has ruled out relocating its Embassy in Belgrade, Serbia to Skopje, Macedonia, despite Serbia not wanting to join NATO, of which Australia, a non member is a strong ally of. Instead DFAT has cited “costs” over a possible move.
This statement from DFAT spokesperson Tom Battams:
"Australia values its relationship with the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. Our assessment, however, is that Australian interests are currently appropriately served through our Embassy in Belgrade, supported by our Honorary Consul in Skopje.
"Decisions to establish Australian Embassies and Consulates are not taken lightly. A number of factors are considered, including, but not limited to:
. government-to-government, trade, cultural and tourism linkages;
. the consular and passport workload in the location;
. the size of the resident Australian population; as well as
. the initial and recurrent costs.
"Australia’s Ambassador in Belgrade, Ms Julia Feeney, is very aware of the importance that Australians of Macedonian descent attach to a range of services and assistance provided by diplomatic and consular representatives in Belgrade and Skopje."
TEAM UZUNOV QUESTIONS - the above statement from DFAT on the Embassy was a response to our questions below:
Foreign Minister, Ms Julie Bishop (left), I wanted to ask you if the Australian government would consider moving its Embassy in Belgrade, Serbia to Skopje, The Republic of Macedonia?
1. It would be a saving to the DFAT budget to set up in Macedonia;
2. There are more people in Australia who have Macedonian ancestry and who speak Macedonian than there are people of Serbian extraction. The Embassy would be of more use located in Skopje than in Belgrade in terms of “traffic.” I cite the 2011 Australian Bureau of Statistics figures, which places Macedonian as the fourth most spoken non-English [non-Asian] language in Australia;
3. Serbia is not a member of NATO and has no intention of joining NATO, whilst Macedonia is a candidate member. Australia, though not a member of NATO, is a close ally of NATO. Both Macedonia and Australia have contributed troops to the various NATO missions in Afghanistan, whilst Serbia hasn’t.
4. There is no strategic need to have an Australian Embassy in Belgrade, which could be covered from Skopje. Our Canadian and American allies, who both have Embassies in Belgrade, would more than adequately keep Canberra informed of political developments in Serbia.
CANADA STAYING PUT
Canada will also be staying put in Belgrade and not relocate to Skopje - link
The Macedonian government of Prime Minister Mr Nikola Gruevski, VMRO-DMNE party, signed a “joint diplomatic” sharing mission agreement with Serbia in 2014. Serbia has made it known it does not seek NATO membership, which Macedonia is a candidate of.
"Wouldn’t sharing buildings housing embassies or consulates with Serbia pose a security threat to Macedonia, should it become a NATO member, as in compromise sensitive NATO material because of the proximity?
"Canada does not have an Embassy in Skopje, Macedonia. Why is that? If Macedonia becomes a NATO member--Serbia has no interest in NATO membership--should not Ottawa move its Embassy to Skopje?"
AMBASSADOR PINNINGTON: "The Embassy carefully follows events in the three countries to which we are accredited: Serbia, Macedonia and Montenegro. We are monitoring the situation in Macedonia. However, we are not in a position to comment on arrangements between private companies and political parties in Macedonia, or on the relations, or specific arrangements, between Macedonia and Serbia.
"With respect to the location of our Embassy, Global Affairs Canada is always examining where Canadian resources should be allocated to ensure Canadian interests are protected and promoted in the most effective and efficient manner."