Greece’s torrid criticism of a story saying there was a Macedonian minority in the country led the BBC to add a disclaimer stipulating that only a Muslim minority in Thrace is recognized.
The British news outlet also included a note that said the Greek government regards Macedonian Slavs Greece’s Macedonia region as a linguistic rather than a national group.
The clarification also added that the nationality of the people of the newly-named North Macedonia is “Macedonian/citizen of the Republic of North Macedonia” and makes no presumption about the existence of a Macedonian ethnicity.
The BBC was quick to make the revision after Greece’s Ambassador to the United Kingdom, Dimitris Karamitsos-Tziras, complained about the news story which he said contains “important historical inaccuracies and distortions against Greece” and “does not do justice” to the agreement by attempting to raise a “non-existent issue,” said Kathimerini.
The article, headlined Greece’s Invisible Minority – the Macedonian Slavs said the agreement changing the name of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) to end a 28-year-ong dispute means “Greece has implicitly recognised the existence of a Macedonian language and ethnicity.”
But the Ambassador and Greece said the deal recognizes a Macedonian nationality but not a Macedonian ethnicity, the difference being nationality the relationship between a person and the political state to which he belongs or is affiliated and ethnicity identifying someone with a particular racial, cultural, or religious group.
The distinction is critical especially as it has political ramifications in an election year with two-thirds of Greeks opposed to the deal that anti-nationalist Prime Minister and Radical Left SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras made with now North Macedonian Premier Zoran Zaev, earning them a Nobel Peace Prize nomination.
The agreement does not recognize an ethnicity, but a nationality, the ambassador said, adding that while Greece recognizes equality before the law, the country recognizes only one minority – Muslims – who are referred to as Muslim Greeks and not Turks although they are Turkish.
“Greece maintains the right to refer to the people who belong to the majority ethnic group residing in the neighboring country as it has done to date, while the citizens of that ethnicity retain the right to self-determination,” he said in the letter.