Zoran Zaev, the North Macedonian prime minister, called a general election for April 12 in the immediate aftermath of EU leaders rejecting to start the formal accession process for his country to join the bloc. In a fiery outburst, he insisted the Western Balkan state had cleaned up enough to alleviate the concerns of rich western leaders over the country’s previous ties to organised crime and corruption. Mr Zaev said: “The Macedonian future is certain, we will win together with the citizens!
“Our people will reaffirm the right path the earth has taken.
“It is the path of development and prosperity, the path that leads forward. These are higher salaries, the construction offensive, huge welfare, support for domestic companies, anti-pollution measures, direct cash back to the citizens and an uncompromising fight against corruption.
“We are ready for great victory and forsaking policies that offer isolation, nationalism, divisions, conflicts and the enrichment of the few at the expense of the citizens.”
Despite Mr Zaev’s efforts to ready North Macedonia for the accession process, EU leaders failed to reach a unanimous decision on whether to accept the country during a late-night summit last Thursday.
This sparked fears that the state could start looking eastwards to Russia for support in the future.
Immediately after announcing his intention to hold a snap election on Saturday, Mr Zaev said his country faces a future in Europe or “a dark path leading to isolation, the path of nationalism, divisions and conflicts, the path that leads backwards”.
The Skopje leader said citizens would make the choice on North Macedonia’s future path.
He added: “We are the victims of the EU’s historical mistake.
“I am disappointed and angry and I know that the entire population feels that way.”
Mr Zaev has put his political career on the line in a bid to win North Macedonia EU and Nato membership.
Jean-Claude Juncker, the European Commission’s president, said it was a “major historic mistake” by EU leaders for blocking membership talks with North Macedonia and Albania.
He added: “If we want to be respected, we have to keep our promises.”
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The Netherlands and Denmark also vetoed any decision being made. But, they said they would be open to considering the two countries separately.
The Hague and Copenhagen said they would be happy to give North Macedonia the green light to start membership talks.
They said Skopje could further ease its path by passing new laws to safeguard the future of an independent public prosecutor.
The Netherlands and Denmark, however, bluntly rejected starting talks with Albania.