A nationalist flare-up in North Macedonia with the electoral resurgence of the VMRO-DPMNE party and the recent election of a new president affiliated with the latter continued on Thursday, with party leader Hristijan Mickoski saying it’s a “constitutional right of the country to call itself as it chooses.”

Mickoski is widely expected to be the next prime minister of the former Yugoslav republic that lies north of Greece.

The latest and direct challenge to the landmark 2018 Prespa Agreement, whose highlight was a change in the land-locked south Balkan country’s name to Republic of North Macedonia for all uses, came just days after newly elected President Gordana Siljanovska-Davkova omitted the “North” part in reciting the written oath of office – instead using stand-alone “Macedonia”.

Athens immediately reacted to the omission and the apparent revisitation to the country’s previous intransigent policy on the divisive “name issue”. Similar criticism followed by Bulgaria and the EU Commission. The “name issue” had prevented a normalization between Greece and its immediate northern neighbor since the latter’s secession from one-time Yugoslavia in 1991.

Asked about Siljanovska-Davkova’s statements immediately after the swearing-in ceremony on Sunday, Mickoski said they were “dignified”. He also opined that he discerned no violation of the Prespa Agreement and also put forth a revised interpretation to fit the latest official narrative out of Skopje.

“Communication within the institutions and the institutions themselves operates on the basis of the laws and the constitution. However, it’s my personal constitutional right to choose how I call my country, and when I make statements and when I speak to you, the journalists … based on our interpretation of the Prespa Agreement there is no violation of it.”

He also called on “our friends in Greece to cease the threats and obstacles; to stop looking to the past and look to the future.”

At the same time, Mickoski appeared to steer clear of the erstwhile “antiquization” policy that characterized previous VMRO governments, stating that “we have no intention of responding to their (Greece) political power by renaming highways and airports or building monuments. I do not expect relations between the two countries to be based on political power; I expect us to have excellent neighborly relations. I consider that VMRO-DPMNE and (Greek ruling party) New Democracy have their own positions in relation to the Prespa Agreement, as neither likes it.”

Later reports had Mickoski saying that if Greece believes the Prespa Agreement was violated then it should seek recourse to the International Court at The Hague.

Earlier on Thursday morning, in fielding an interview question during a live television appearance, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said: “…We will not ratify the (outstanding Prespa) memoranda unless we are absolutely convinced that the other party complies with all provisions of the agreement.”