North Macedonia calls snap election after European Union talks setback

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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.

French President Emmanuel Macron on Friday led a group of leaders who blocked opening talks with Albania and North Macedonia, despite concerns over increasing Chinese and Russian influence in the Balkans.

North Macedonia should have a snap general election, the country's Prime Minister Zoran Zaev said on Saturday, after a bid to start European Union membership talks were blocked.

European Council President Donald Tusk called the Friday decision a "mistake" and urged the states not to give up.

The Commission and the European Parliament had recommended starting talks with both countries.

Addressing the nation on television, the Prime Minister did not announce a date for the snap election but he said that it would be discussed with all sides of the political spectrum, including the opposition and smaller parties.

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"This is what I'm proposing: organizing quick snap elections where you, citizens, will make a decision for the road we are going to take", he said in the address.

Apart from France, all the other European Union members agree that North Macedonia has made enough progress on reforms - including changing its name from Macedonia to appease Greece - to start talks. Gratitude to all leaders that fought hard for the EU to open accession talks with us, thus acknowledging and anchoring the historic Prespa Agreement, encouraging domestic reforms and underpinning the European narrative in North Macedonia, a candidate country for 14 years.

Albania had less support, with the Netherlands and Denmark joining France in voicing reservations about its efforts against corruption and organized crime.

The European Commission said in May that Albania and North Macedonia had both made sufficient progress.

Mrs Merkel championed North Macedonia's cause earlier this year when it agreed to change its name from Macedonia to settle a row with Greece.

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