“I am breaking inside,” Zaev said in an interview with The New York Times.

Only two months ago, the leader of the small Balkan nation of North Macedonia was riding high, feted by world leaders, praised by the head of United Nations for offering a rare bright spot in an otherwise troubled global landscape and on the shortlist for a Nobel Peace Prize. Prime Minister Zoran Zaev had staked his political career and his country’s future on resolving a three-decade-old dispute with neighboring Greece over his nation’s name. And through often tortuous diplomacy and against great odds, he had succeeded. But as he sat outside his office in the capital city, Skopje, that all seemed far away, the paper said.

“I am breaking inside,” Zaev told The New York Times.

The paper says the name change was expected to clear the way for talks on Macedonia joining the European Union, but last month, France vetoed those discussions, arguing that the process of enlarging the bloc needs to be rethought. That, according to The New York Times, threw the government in Skopje into turmoil, and more ominously, it is shaking up the status quo in a region where an uneasy peace has existed since the bloody breakup of Yugoslavia in the 1990s and the wars that followed.

That destroyed me personally, psychologically, Zaev said.

In the interview, he said he was concerned “not just about himself and his country”, but for the stability of the entire western Balkans.

“Nationalism and radicalism can rise again,” he said. “There is a risk to open conflicts inside of the countries again. Also to open conflicts between countries again.”

When asked why he decided to take such a dramatic step in regard to calling early elections, he said he had no choice.

If we don’t call for elections, nationalism will rise. I am terrified, Zaev told The New York Times.