The Macedonian Foreign Ministry prepared a note for media outlets in which it lays out detailed instructions on what words to use to describe the country, its people and culture, especially the adjective “Macedonian”, and strictly banning the use of the adjective “Northmacedonian”. The note may put Macedonia on a collision course with Greece, which also issued a note of its own.

According to the Macedonian note, institutions such as the Foreign Ministry, the Government or the President, should only be referred to as the “Government of the Republic of North Macedonia” or the “Government of North Macedonia”. Use of both “Macedonian” and “Northmacedonian” to describe these institutions is forbidden. The same applies to private subjects who are funded by the Government.

But, the word Macedonian must be used whenever the Macedonian people or the Macedonian language are referred to. In the Prespa treaty, Greece accepted the use of the word Macedonian to describe the language, while insisting that the nationality is “Macedonian/citizen of the Republic of North Macedonia” and that the term “nationality” does not apply to the ethnic background, but only to the citizenship.

The Macedonian Government assured Greece that it agrees with this definition, but would then also assure Macedonians that the Prespa treaty guarantees their national identity and that with it Greece accepts that Macedonians are Macedonians. This case of doublespeak is not clearly resolved in the two notes. The Greek note agrees that the institutions will have to be referred to as of the “Republic of North Macedonia” or “North Macedonia” and merely repeats the formulation on the nationality which is contained in the Prespa treaty.

The adjective “Macedonian” is to be used when relating to ethnic and cultural identity of the people, our language, history, culture, heritage, territory and other attributes. Such terms in this context are distinctly different from those used and related to the region of Macedonia in Greece, the Macedonian note declares, adding the following examples: “Correct examples: Macedonian ethnic identity; Macedonian language; Macedonian culture; Macedonian territory; Macedonian people; Macedonian history, Macedonian mountains; Macedonian literature; the Macedonian Cyrillic alphabet; Macedonian food; Macedonian churches etc. Incorrect: Other adjectival references, including “North Macedonian”, “Northern Macedonian”, “N. Macedonian” and “NorthMacedonian”, should not be used”.

The battle over the adjectives was one of the most pronounced elements of the name issue which the two Governments believe was settled with the Prespa treaty. Bulgaria is also closely following the process as it doesn’t recognize the Macedonian nation and language as separate from the Bulgarian. Using the name “North Macedonia”, which was imposed to the country despite not being approved at a referendum and after intense pressure was put on the Macedonian Parliament, may lead to the development of adjectives such as “North Macedonian, which the Ministry of Foreign Affairs insist will not be allowed.

As part of the deal with Greece we have agreed not to describe any state body as North Macedonian. Anything connected to the state, the government, the presidency, private entities and actors related to the state or activities financed by the state abroad will use the adjective North but it is not necessary to use it otherwise, for example for food. So, our country is run by the Government of North Macedonia, our head of state is the President of North Macedonia, foreign affairs are run by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of North Macedonia and so on. North Macedonia should also be used for all other official bodies too, for example, local municipalities and Saints Cyril and Methodius University. For example: “Tetovo is a municipality in North Macedonia where it is common to hear people speak in either Macedonian or Albanian. Likewise: “Saints Cyril and Methodius University is the oldest university in North Macedonia. I went there to do an interview about the Macedonian economy.” Again, be careful – not North Macedonian. Yes, it is complicated, but it took us 27 years to get to this agreement!, the note declares.