North Macedonia: what happens after Zaev's resignation?

North Macedonia settled its name dispute with Greece and joined Nato under his government, but now Zoran Zaev has announced his resignation as prime minister after his social democratic party SDSM suffered a bitter defeat in local elections at the end of October. It is still not clear whether snap elections will be held. Europe's press is saddened by the move.

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Profil (AT) /

Left high and dry by the EU

The prime minister is the victim of empty EU promises, Profil states:

“Zaev's resignation is the end of a European relationship. It started as a love affair in 2017 and ended four years later in broken dreams and unfulfilled promises. Brussels encouraged Zaev to introduce reforms, promising to start accession talks in return. The young prime minister played the optimist and told the nation to be patient - a highly risky undertaking, as it now transpires. Because the EU has still not started the promised accession talks. Even though Zaev showed willingness to make some very unpopular compromises. ... This is a major blow to the image of the European project. Many will draw fatal conclusions from Zaev's resignation: you won't win elections with the EU.”

SLpress (GR) /

The name dispute could flare up again

SLpress is concerned that relations with Greece will deteriorate and the Prespa agreement will be jeopardised if the nationalist VMRO-DPMNE party gets into power:

“The VMRO has even gone as far as to say that it would withdraw from the agreement. ... Anti-Western instincts and extreme nationalism, and Macedonism in particular, are deeply rooted in the VRMO's collective consciousness. So there is no doubt that it would at least attempt to override not only the spirit but also the agreement itself, if not de jure, then de facto. ... If these extreme nationalists do get into power in the neighbouring country, a deterioration in bilateral relations is inevitable.”

Kapital (BG) /

Unusually upright behaviour

Kapital points out that Zoran Zaev has become the first prime minister in the country's 30-year history to resign voluntarily:

“Zaev's resignation - both as prime minister and as SDSM leader - came as a shock to many, probably because politicians who keep their promises are a virtually unknown phenomenon in the Balkans. ... If there is anything positive about the situation, it is that Zaev is setting a rare example of how to shoulder political responsibility even when not compelled to do so. The regrettable aspect is that his resignation plunges North Macedonia into a political uncertainty that could escalate into a political crisis.”