The Bulgarian BGNES news agency published a much scaled back estimate of the number of Macedonians who obtained dual Bulgarian citizenship. According to the agency, over the past 15 years, during which having a Bulgarian passport meant easier access to the EU labour market, 86,566 Macedonians sought and obtained one.

This is about half of all passports Bulgaria issued to foreigner citizens – Moldova received the second most, followed by Ukraine. But, the number thrown out by Bulgarian politicians and media outlets about passports handed down in Macedonia would often reach over 100,000 and in some cases up to 200,000. Bulgaria allows issuing of passports to foreign citizens who claim that they have Bulgarian ethnic origin, and is hoping to use this program to extend its ethnic minority claims in Macedonia. In reality, most of the applicants use the passports to leave for other EU member states.

About 3,500 Macedonians are currently waiting to claim Bulgarian passports. Additionally, about a 1,000 Albanian citizens are also waiting for a Bulgarian passport – this program is largely aimed at ethnic Macedonians in the country’s south-east.