The prime minister of North Macedonia, Zoran Zaev, has called a snap parliamentary election following the decision by EU leaders to once again delay opening membership talks with his country and neighbouring Albania.
Mr Zaev had previously said that he would resign after EU member states failed to endorse the recommendation of the European Commission to start accession talks.
While most EU member states believe that the two countries – North Macedonia especially, which ended a long-running 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. Denmark and the Netherlands are also opposed.
“I am disappointed and angry and I know that the entire population feels this way,” said Mr Zaev, announcing the early election.
He said Macedonians would now “decide the road we are going to take”, without specifying what he would recommend.
The elections will be held on April 12, eight months ahead of schedule.
According to the Macedonian constitution, Mr Zaev will have to step down from the post of the prime minister in January, making way for a caretaker government – that could include independent experts and representatives of the opposition – to prepare for the election.
After North Macedonia agreed earlier this year to end a dispute with Greece over the use of the term Macedonia, the former Yugoslav republic had expected to be granted a date to start entry talks with the EU.
In June, Mr Zaev was named the joint winner (along with Alexis Tsipras of Greece) of the the Günter Verheugen Award, for their role in resolving the almost 3o-year-long dispute.