On August 31, Ambassador Kate Byrnes hosted a Virtual Consular Town Hall for American citizens living in North Macedonia. In her remarks, the Ambassador highlighted consular services during the COVID-19 pandemic and the upcoming U.S. elections. She encouraged U.S. citizens in North Macedonia to use absentee ballots to cast their votes in the November elections. Read her remarks below:
Ambassador Byrnes’ Remarks at the Virtual Consular own Hall
August 31, 2020
It is a pleasure to be here with you today.
The Department of State has no higher priority than the safety and security of U.S. citizens overseas. As the Chief of Mission of the U.S. Embassy in Skopje, I am committed to doing everything possible to keep our citizens safe.
That is why we have arranged this virtual town hall, to share some important information and updates regarding COVID-19 assistance to U.S. citizens here in North Macedonia. I’d also like to take this opportunity to encourage you to vote in the upcoming U.S. Presidential election.
Our Consular team in Skopje has worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic, as part of the extraordinary efforts of U.S. embassies worldwide, to support American citizens seeking repatriation. Since January, the Department of State has coordinated the repatriation of more than 100,000 Americans on 1,140 flights from 136 countries and territories.
In North Macedonia, our Consular team worked diligently to respond to more than 600 inquires, kept U.S. citizens informed through travel advisories and health alerts, and organized seven repatriation flights, including two from Pristina. We continue to update our Embassy website to give American citizens timely information.
On August 6, the Department of State lifted the Global Level 4 Health Advisory warning U.S. citizens to avoid all international travel due to the global pandemic and has now issued a Travel Advisory Level 3: Reconsider Travel for North Macedonia.
As conditions have evolved across the United States and around the world, the Department has initiated a phased resumption of routine consular services on a location-by-location basis, based on public health data and local conditions.
Here at the U.S. Embassy in Skopje, we have started to resume scheduling American Citizen Services and routine visa appointments. The health and safety of our applicants and staff remain our top priority, and we appreciate your patience as we reopen in as safe a manner as possible.
In spite of the global pandemic and its continuing impact, North Macedonia has continued to make progress in its march towards Euro-Atlantic integration. On March 27, the country became the 30th member of NATO, an important milestone celebrated in Washington, Brussels, and here in Skopje. NATO membership brings new opportunities and heightened expectations for our partnership with North Macedonia.
In addition, the Council of the European Union agreed on March 26 to open negotiations for eventual EU membership for North Macedonia. North Macedonia is continuing on its path to implement important reforms, for example, in anticorruption, increased transparency, a strengthened judiciary and rule of law; and the EU negotiations provide renewed incentives for these critical reforms to continue.
North Macedonia also held safe and successful Parliamentary Elections in July and a new government was approved by Parliament last night. Now that the government is confirmed, I will be meeting with the Prime Minister and his cabinet to discuss our common priorities as partners and allies.
We have elections coming up soon in the United States as well and I encourage everyone to exercise their right to vote. This year, we commemorate the Women’s Suffrage Movement with the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment. To celebrate the 19th Amendment’s centennial, I encourage you to exercise your civic responsibility and participate in the November elections.
U.S. citizens can vote from anywhere in the world, whether it’s the European countryside or a Pacific island. Voters can mail their completed and signed ballots using the local country’s international postal service or drop off the completed ballot package at the U.S. Embassy in Skopje, and we’ll get it to the U.S. Postal Service for delivery to your election office.
As we continue to monitor local and global conditions, and update our Embassy webpage, I encourage all U.S. citizens to enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive timely alerts and information.
Thank you for participating in this virtual town hall. Stay safe, stay strong, and stay healthy!
If you are a U.S. citizen and missed the Virtual Consular Town Hall, but still want to know what was discussed, click HERE to read the transcript of the meeting.