In an interview with Alsat TV, Prime Minister Zoran Zaev stated that the word “nationality” which in his deal with the Greeks is defined as “Macedonian/citizen of the Republic of North Macedonia”, refers only to citizenship and not to the ethnic background of the Macedonian citizens. Zaev and his Government have often repeated this line in front of Greek, and now Albanian audiences such as the Albanian language Alsat TV, while in front of Macedonian audiences the line has been that the agreement guarantees the Macedonian ethnic identity and that through it Greece accepts this guarantee.

Let’s rejoice that Greece will make its decision these days and the agreement regulates the citizenship. Our ethnic origin is up to our self-determination, Zaev told Alsat TV.

During the forced ratification of the deal in the Macedonian Parliament, he faced a brief rebellion from opposition ethnic Albanian parties who demanded that this article of the deal is rephrased and the word “Macedonian” is fully removed from the text. Eventually, Zaev made concessions to the ethnic Albanian demands elsewhere, and the double, conflicting definition of the article whose meaning depends on who his audience is remains undecided.

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras seized on Zaev’s explanation meant for the Greek audience, and told in his Parliament that the word nationality “refers merely to citizenship and not to the nationality issue”. The Greek Foreign Ministry issued a Q&A on the deal, in which they insist that Macedonia has renounced its ties with the ancient classical period, the heritage of the land and the cultural heritage, which are now considered exclusively Greek, and has reiterated that the Macedonian language is a Slavic language – a point Greeks nationalists use to emphasize their older relations to the region.

On the other hand, in previous comments Zaev assured Macedonians that the deal has gotten Tsipras and other Greek politicians to accept the existence of the Macedonian nation.

We gain crystal clear and incontrovertible confirmation of the Macedonian language and confirmation of the Macedonian identity. Greece now recognizes our identity and our language will be used freely everywhere. Our identity is confirmed and reinforced. We have a state recognized by the entire world, with a Macedonian nation recognized by the entire world, which speaks the Macedonian language recognized by the entire world, Zaev said when promoting the deal in the past.