North Macedonia PM Zaev calls for early election, blasts EU

EPA-EFE  STEPHANIE LECOCQ

EPA-EFE STEPHANIE LECOCQ

The foreign minister expressed regret that the European Commission's proposal to start accession talks with North Macedonia and Albania was not approved by the European Council.

In a televised address, Zaev did not name a date for the polls, but insisted that now was the time for the key decision about the future course of the country to be delegated to voters.

Mr Macron was joined by Denmark and the Netherlands in refusing Albania, but France alone rejected North Macedonia. He will meet with the country's president and other political leaders on Sunday to discuss how to proceed.

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EU Council President Donald Tusk said: "It's not a failure, it's a mistake".

Several hours of talks in Brussels on October 17 ended without the two Balkan states being given a date to begin the long process of accession negotiations. All EU states must agree before approval is given for membership talks to begin. While most European Union member states believe that the two countries - North Macedonia especially, which ended a 30-year dispute with Greece over the use of the name Macedonia - have made enough progress for talks to begin, French President Emmanuel Macron continues to steadfastly oppose the idea.

Opening membership talks with Skopje while closing the door to Tirana would have been a major political mistake, he added.

"The process of European integration will continue".

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Rume Risteski, a resident of Skopje, said the deadlock shows that "the Europeans lie", leading to skepticism toward the EU.

Before starting membership talks, potential new members of the bloc must demonstrate a range of reforms in areas such as economic policy, human rights, anti-corruption measures and the rule of law.

She added that Washington hopes the EU will "reach a consensus on a positive decision for both countries well in advance of the EU-Western Balkans Summit next May".

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