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North Macedonia Sets April Date For Snap Polls After EU Snub


Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev gives a press conference in Skopje on October 19.
Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev gives a press conference in Skopje on October 19.

The leaders of North Macedonia have agreed on a date for snap elections that were called by Prime Minister Zoran Zaev on October 19.

After meeting with President Stevo Pendarovski on October 20, Zaev announced that the leaders of the country's main political parties had agreed the "most suitable" date for the elections would be April 12, eight months earlier than previously scheduled.

Zaev called the early elections because of his "disappointment and outrage" after the European Union failed to initiate membership talks with North Macedonia and Albania.

It was a major blow to the progressive leader of North Macedonia's Social Democrats whose main goal since coming to power in 2017 was gaining membership to the European Union and NATO.

The EU's rejection came after Zaev took the enormous political risk of reaching an agreement with Greece in 2018 that changed his country's name from Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, resolving a decades-long dispute between the two countries.

As a result, North Macedonia was granted a protocol on accession to NATO membership in February. However, the EU decision has blocked Zaev's government's drive to join the bloc.

EU chief Jean-Claude Juncker called the 28-member bloc's decision a "grave, historic error," while EU Council President Donald Tusk urged Albania and North Macedonia to not give up.

France, with support from the Netherlands and Denmark, blocked the proposal and called for an overhaul of the EU's procedures for admitting new members.

On October 20, EU foreign-policy chief Frederica Mogherini posted on her blog that the EU's decision was "a historic mistake" in view of "the extraordinary progress achieved by both countries."

"It is a historic mistake," she wrote, "which I hope can be amended as soon as possible."

With reporting by AP and AFP
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