Despite the turmoil in Washington which has practically everything except his current European trip in focus, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo departed Italy on 4 October for a brief swing through Montenegro, North Macedonia, and Greece. This leg of his travels has a strong NATO and defense theme, as he is due to sign an important new defense agreement in Athens and visit NATO’s 29th member, Montenegro, and NATO hopeful member number 30, North Macedonia.
With this in mind, Pompeo made extremely brief stops on 4 October in both of the newest NATO members, treating North Macedonia as if it had already entered the alliance formally despite the small complication of a number of countries not yet having completed their own rather slow national ratification processes. This is expected by the end of this year or early 2020.
In Podgorica, Montenegro Pompeo met senior government officials, against the backdrop of being the NATO alliance’s newest full member, number 29.
In North Macedonia, Pompeo stopped at the town of Ohrid instead of the capital Skopje but met the full range of government officials there. Pompeo visited the 13th century church there, Perybleptos, or Holy Mother of God Monastery complex, on the banks of Lake Ohrid.
In Greece, Pompeo is expected to meet with senior officials including Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and sign a new defense agreement which will modify and upgrade the existing bilateral Mutual Defense Cooperation Agreement (MDCA) dating from 1990. He is also set to deliver a speech on bilateral relations and the prospects for greater trade and investment.
Although he will have departed Greece, Pompeo’s presence also sets the stage for the second meeting of the US-Greece Strategic Dialogue which both countries launched in Washington in 2018. As expected, regional stability, both in the Balkans and the Eastern Mediterranean, will be the main focus but energy and economic issues will also be given high priority in view of the change of government in Athens in July.
This high-level multi-sectoral discussion is due to get underway on 7 October. Unfortunately, the positive atmosphere on the bilateral commercial front has been dampened considerably by news of the latest round of WTO-authorised US tariffs on EU products after the WTO ruled against the EU in the Airbus case, some of which hit agricultural exports from Greece.