Prime Minister Zoran Zaev used a very crude pun while commenting on the issue of the future identity cards. Major parties are agreed that the documents should contain the ethnic identity of the citizens – Macedonian, Albanian, Roma… But the opposition VMRO-DPMNE party demands that they do not use the imposed name “North Macedonia”, especially given that even under Zaev’s Prespa Treaty, the use of the adjective should be tied to Macedonia’s EU accession talks – which are currently blocked.

It’s as if you want to make love but not hug your partner, Zaev said, mangling the otherwise very crude joke.

It is widely reported that it is Zaev who “wants to make love but not hug”, because Greece is unlikely to accept the use of the term Macedonian on the identity cards. Greece agreed to a determination of “nationality – Macedonian/citizen of the Republic of North Macedonia”, and Zaev declared this a major win and said that with it Greece accepted the right of Macedonians to self-identification. Greece, obviously, responds that it only agreed to have the lengthy term used to denote citizenship, not nationality, as it wants Greek citizens of northern Greece to have the right to declare that they are the “true Macedonians”.

Zaev’s Albanian coalition partner BESA first raised the issue – it is a long standing positions of Albanian parties that they want to use the term Albanian in passports and identity cards. Macedonian parties generally opposed this, but as the Macedonian nation faces growing pressure on its own right to self-identification, VMRO-DPMNE endorsed the proposal – provided that the cards continue to be issued under the name Republic of Macedonia, and the national identity is clearly marked as Macedonian – positions that Zaev is unlikely to be able to adopt againt Greek opposition.

I want to have my identity card denote my nation, the Macedonian nation. I am a Macedonian and i see no issue with having the Macedonian nation named in the document, Mickoski said.

The small populist leftist Levica party is trying to block the passage of the proposal in Parliament, insisting that it will undermine the notion that all citizens are Macedonians, regardless of their national identity. But VMRO sources have alleged that Levica is doing this in coordination with Zaev, as he is under pressure from Greece to stop the proposal. VMRO seems eager to test the extent to which Zaev really won the right to use the term “Macedonian” when he signed the Prespa Treaty.