By Sinisa Jakov Marusic
Macedonia has dismissed US public relations and lobbying expert Jason Miko, a supporter of the former VMRO DPMNE-led govermment, as its honorary consul in Arizona.
Macedonia’s government on Tuesday stripped Jason Miko, a public champion of the former ruling VMRO DPMNE party, of his title as honorary Macedonian consul in the US state of Arizona.
Until it closed in mid-2017, Miko was a regular columnist for one of the most prominent Macedonian dailies, Dnevnik, in which he defended the policies of the then ruling party.
Miko’s columns were frequently republished by media outlets under this party’s control. In the columns, he was signed as “manager of public relations from Arizona (USA) and longtime observer of the situation in Macedonia and Southeast Europe.”
After more than ten years in power, VMRO DPMNE was finally ousted from government in May last year following a two-and-a-half-year-long crisis cantered around allegations of widespread corruption and authoritarianism.
Miko’s engagement also included consultancy services for which he was paid out of the Macedonian budget.
BIRN has obtained two contracts, from 2015 and 2016, for almost $18,000 US, in which the defence ministry hired Miko’s “intellectual services”.
In 2015, the then defence minister Zoran Jolevski hired Miko for “matters concerning informing the domestic and international public about activities in the area of defence”.
The contract for $11,375 was signed in September 17, 2015 and was effective from August 4 to October 31 of that year.
In 2016, Jolevski signed another contract with Miko for similar information services, plus for the coverage of that year’s NATO summit in Warsaw. Miko was supposed to be paid $6,500 US from the budget for this service.
Earlier, Miko was a lobbyist for the VMRO DPMNE party of former Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski.
According to records published through the US Foreign Agents Registration Act, FARA, VMRO DPMNE hired Miko’s services ahead of the July 2006 general elections in which it defeated the Social Democrats, SDSM, and took power.
The contract was signed in May 29, 2006 between Miko and the party secretary-general at the time, Gordana Jankuloska. For this, Miko received $7,500 dollars.
Miko was also the producer of the 2009 documentary film called A Name is a Name, which focused on the long-standing bilateral “name” dispute with neighbouring Greece.
The film featured an interview with then Prime Minister Gruevski and largely reflected the views of the then VMRO DPMNE-led government – which was not keen on engaging in compromises to solve the dispute in order to unblock Macedonia’s NATO and EU accession bids.
Miko is still publishing columns for VMRO DPMNE-affiliated websites in the country.