Thursday

29th Feb 2024

Snap elections in North Macedonia after EU rejection

  • North Macedonia's prime minister Zoran Zaev and EU Council president Donald Tusk called the decision to delay accession talks "a historical mistake" (Photo: consilium.europa.eu)

North Macedonia's prime minister Zoran Zaev has called early elections after the European Union refused to start accession talks with the country.

Following the call, the president of North Macedonia, Stevo Pendarovski, invited all party leaders for a meeting on Sunday (20 October) afternoon, where all agreed to hold elections on 12 April - eight months before the normal end of the term.

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According to the law, prime minister Zaev and his government will now step down and will be replaced by a caretaker government of technicians and representatives of the opposition.

"We have a clear state consensus of all political leaders, that despite the decision of the European Council ... the Republic of North Macedonia should start negotiations [with the EU] as soon as possible," Pendarovski said after the meeting.

The European Council decided on Thursday (17 October) to delay the promised start of talks with North Macedonia to join the bloc after a veto by French president Emmanuel Macron.

According to Macron, the EU should reform its current way of working first and make sure it will be able to handle another financial crisis before it decides on another enlargement.

"We need a reformed European Union and a reformed enlargement process, a real credibility and a strategic vision of who we are and our role," Macron said at a press conference.

Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte used similar words after the European Council meeting in order to explain why The Netherlands was blocking accession talks for Albania - the other Balkan country that had been promised to open accession talks this year.

"Historical mistake"

After the EU decision, prime minister Zaev said: "We are the victims of a historical mistake".

His words echoed those of European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker and other European leaders.

"It's not a failure, it's a mistake. I feel really embarrassed," EU council president Donald Tusk said after the summit .

Earlier on, the commission and the European Parliament had agreed to start accession talks with North Macedonia and Albania saying that both countries had made sufficient progress on reform.

North Macedonia, which had been called the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (Fyrom) had also made a historic agreement with Greece to change its name after decades of political stalemate.

"I am disappointed and angry and I know that the entire population feels this way," Zaev said when he announced the early elections.

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Denmark, France and the Netherlands opposed opening talks on EU accession with Albania and North Macedonia in a blow that may invite greater Russian influence in the Balkan region.

EU enlargement freeze prompts Serbia rethink

The president of Serbia, Aleksandar Vucic, said the Balkan region needs to take care of itself after the EU blocked enlargement talks with North Macedonia and Albania.

Investigation

Far-right MEPs least disciplined in following party line

In a fractious parliamentary vote, the level of party discipline often decides the fate of legislation. Party discipline among nationalists and far-right MEPs is the weakest, something potentially significant after the June elections. Data by Novaya Gazeta Europe and EUobserver.

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