N Macedonia PM wants early election after EU snub

N Macedonia PM wants early election after EU snub

North Macedonia’s prime minister, Zoran Zaev, wants an early general election after the European Union refused to hold membership talks.

The move is a reaction to a decision by Brussels on Friday not to begin formal talks with North Macedonia and Albania that would allow the states to join. EU membership is one of the key goals of Zaev’s administration.

“This is what I’m proposing: organising a quick election where you, citizens, will make a decision for the road we are going to take,” Zaev said in a televised debate. “We do not have time to lose. Towards the true path of European values or towards the dark path of division and conflicts.”

He said the election date would be agreed at a Sunday meeting with the president, coalition partners and the opposition leader.

“Europe has not delivered what it has promised. A huge injustice has been done to us. … I am disappointed and outraged,” Zaev said in Skopje.

“I have no date, all options are open, we will agree on that together,” he added.

EU leaders failed to agree on Friday whether to open membership talks with Albania and North Macedonia, amid opposition from France.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker criticised the summit outcome.

And European Council President Donald Tusk said: “It’s not a failure, it’s a mistake. I feel really embarrassed.”

The commission and the European Parliament had both recommended starting talks with both Balkan states. 

The Social Democrat Zaev took office in 2017, ousting the right-wing former strongman Nikola Gruevksi who held power for a decade.

Zaev has entirely focused on EU membership since then.

Only France did not accept that North Macedonia made enough progress on reforms to start membership talks.

French President Emmanuel Macron said the entire accession process must first be reformed before taking new members.

Macron was joined by Denmark and the Netherlands in refusing the Albanian bid, but only France rejected North Macedonia. All EU member states must agree before membership talks can begin.

Macron said Brussels “should do more to help those countries develop, not just make pledges”.

Potential new members of the bloc must demonstrate reforms in areas like economic policy, human rights, anti-corruption measures and the rule of law.

The European Commission said in May Albania and North Macedonia had both made sufficient progress.

The failure to start membership talks was “disastrous” for the EU’s credibility in the Balkans, said James Ker-Lindsay of the London School of Economics.


Skopje. Picture credit: Wikimedia

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