The U.S. State Department prepared a congratulatory letter for North Macedonia’s first female president, Gordana Siljanovska, but it was never released. During her inauguration, President Siljanovska revived the longstanding name dispute with Greece by referring to her country as “Macedonia” instead of the official name, “North Macedonia.”

Sources confirmed to To Vima that this decision aims to convey dissatisfaction with Ms. Siljanovska for violating the provisions of the Prespa Agreement during her inauguration and subsequent events.

Currently, the U.S. is adopting a wait-and-see approach, monitoring the situation as North Macedonia’s new government takes shape. Despite this, President Siljanovska’s evasive tactics suggest she intends to maintain her original stance on the issue.

A Symbolic Congratulation

Instead of an official letter from Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs, James O’Brien, extended congratulations via a simple post on X (formerly Twitter).

This symbolic gesture underscores Washington’s cautious stance regarding public interventions following the initial challenges to the Prespa Agreement’s implementation.

Deputy State Department Spokesman Vedant Patel emphasized the importance of upholding international agreements but was notably vague about whether officials’ refusal to use the country’s new constitutional name would trigger sanctions under President Joe Biden’s Western Balkans executive order.

During her visit to Skopje, Undersecretary of Public Diplomacy Elizabeth Allen took a firmer stand, expressing disappointment in President Siljanovska’s refusal to use the constitutional name.

Behind-the-Scenes Pressure

American officials have been lobbying behind closed doors both before and after the election. Outgoing Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Western Balkans, Gabriel Escobar, revealed that the U.S. has received assurances from the winning party, VMRO-DPMNE, about continuing North Macedonia’s European integration.

However, there is concern in Washington that VMRO-DPMNE’s commitments to a European path lack a clear guarantee regarding the use of the constitutional name. Analysts fear that this naming issue, deeply tied to the party’s identity, could pose significant challenges. They anticipate the new government might comply with the letter of the Prespa Agreement while neglecting its spirit in public discourse.

A Grace Period for the New Government

American diplomacy is deliberately maintaining a low public profile to avoid the perception of external intervention, which could trigger a nationalist backlash. This low-key strategy is intended to give the new government time to gradually shift away from its pre-election rhetoric on the constitutional name issue.

Nevertheless, experts warn that tensions are rising again in the Western Balkans. while the U.S. is preoccupied with managing conflicts and regional tensions elsewhere. With Gabriel Escobar’s departure and a potential delay in appointing his successor, there is uncertainty about how much attention the U.S. will devote to the Balkans in the near future.

This uncertainty adds to the anxiety about the future of the Western Balkans, casting a shadow over the region during a critical period.