Peace Corps Suspends Program in Macedonia
April 16, 1999Washington, D.C., April 16, 1999—Peace Corps Director Mark Gearan announced today that due to the conflict in neighboring Kosovo, the Peace Corps has suspended its program in Macedonia. Three weeks ago, all 33 Peace Corps volunteers in Macedonia were moved to Bulgaria to ensure their safety. At that time, Gearan said the Peace Corps would monitor the situation in Macedonia and make a decision about the future of the program by mid-April. "While we had hoped that the volunteers' relocation to Bulgaria would be a temporary measure, it has become clear that we could not ensure the safety of our volunteers if they were to return soon," Gearan said. Gearan said the Peace Corps remains hopeful that circumstances will permit a return to Macedonia at some point in the future. He said that the Peace Corps office in the Macedonian capital of Skopje will remain open, with Peace Corps staff continuing to work there. All volunteers will complete their service, but each will be given the opportunity to re-enroll as a volunteer in another country, or to wait to serve as a volunteer in Macedonia again if and when the program reopens. Last month, the Peace Corps cancelled the scheduled departure of a new group of volunteers to Macedonia. They have been given the option of serving in other countries. Currently, 6,700 Peace Corps volunteers are working in nearly 80 countries to bring clean water to communities, teach children, protect the environment, help start new businesses, and prevent the spread of AIDS. Since 1961, more than 152,000 Americans have joined the Peace Corps.