North Macedonia‘s Prime Minister Zoran Zaev on Saturday called for early elections after the European Union refused to open membership talks for the Balkan state, which had been the key aim of his administration.
“This is what I’m proposing: Organising quick snap elections where you, citizens, will make a decision for the road we are going to take,” he said in a televised address.
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After hours of heated wrangling, EU leaders were thwarted from greenlighting the start of Skopje’s accession talks on Friday because of opposition chiefly from France.
“We are victims of the EU’s historical mistake,” Zaev said in his address.
“I am disappointed and angry and I know that the entire population feels this way,” Zaev continued.
He said he would meet with the president and other political leaders on Sunday to discuss the next steps.
A Social Democrat who came to power in 2017, Zaev staked all of his political capital into putting North Macedonia on a path to the EU.
He had to battle fierce opposition from nationalist forces to change his country’s name – which was previously Macedonia – to overcome a dispute with Greece that had been standing in the way of the country’s EU integration.
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said on Friday that the impasse among EU leaders over North Macedonia and Albania represented an “historic mistake”.
“It’s a major historic mistake and I hope it will only be temporary and won’t become engraved in the collective memory as a historic mistake,” Juncker warned.
The decision was blocked by the opposition led by France and backed by Denmark and the Netherlands.
Paris argues that the whole accession process is in need of reform and that the EU should focus on getting
its own house in order before considering new members.