North Macedonia PM Zaev quits before April polls

File photo. Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev addresses a press conference to announce early Parliamentary election, in Skopje, Republic of North Macedonia,. [EPA-EFE/GEORGI LICOVSKI]

North Macedonia’s Prime Minister Zoran Zaev resigned Friday (3 January) ahead of a vote in April called after the EU blocked the start of membership talks with Skopje, the key policy goal of his cabinet.

European Union leaders in October failed to agree on opening accession talks with North Macedonia and Albania, mostly because of opposition from France.

All eyes on France after inconclusive enlargement summit debate

After a long night of inconclusive discussions, EU heads of state are set to return to the EU enlargement issue today (18 October). All eyes are on France, as Emmanuel Macron’s position has so far been the major stumbling block for opening accession talks with North Macedonia and Albania.

The issue is now on hold until spring.

Skopje’s leader agreed in October to hold early elections on 12 April.

Zaev, who earlier labelled the EU’s decision a “historic mistake”, tendered his resignation, his cabinet confirmed to AFP.

The resignation is to be confirmed later Friday by the parliament which is also to vote on an interim unity government to run the country until the April election.

The caretaker government, to include both the ruling coalition and the opposition, is to be led by former interior minister Oliver Spasovski of Zaev’s Social Democrats.

EU’s decision against opening membership talks with North Macedonia and Albania sparked a wave of anger and disappointment, not just in the two Balkans nations but also among EU officials and leaders who had lobbied hard to open the talks.

Zaev and his SDSM party came to power in 2017, ousting the right-wing party of former strongman Nikola Gruevski, who had dominated the country for a decade.

Since then, his government has poured all of its political capital into putting North Macedonia on a path to NATO and EU membership.

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