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Macedonian PM Hopeful EU's 'Historic Mistake' Can Be Rectified

North Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev
North Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev

SKOPJE -- North Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev says he is aware of the deep public disappointment over the European Union's failure to open membership negotiations with Skopje despite a landmark agreement with Greece, but voiced hope that the "historic mistake" will be rectified.

"Of course, all citizens are disappointed because the EU has not made a decision," Zaev told RFE/RL in the capital, Skopje.

"It remains our hope that it will correct that historic mistake," he added.

Zaev, whose main goal since coming to power in 2017 has been starting membership talks with the EU and NATO, last year settled a decades-long row with Greece, agreeing to change the country's name from Macedonia to North Macedonia in the hope that the deal would speed up the accession process.

But on October 18, Skopje received a major setback after a handful of EU countries again blocked membership talks for North Macedonia, as well as Albania, leading Zaev to call snap general elections in April to ask voters to decide on which path they wanted their country to take following the EU's rebuttal.

Zaev told RFE/RL that both Greece and Bulgaria -- the two neighbors that Skopje used to have disputes with -- were vocal supporters of North Macedonia's opening membership talks with the 28-member bloc.

He said that despite the temporary setback, Skopje would work to build more support among its neighbors.

"We will not allow the old quarrels to come back," Zaev said.

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