Prime Minister Zoran Zaev made a passionate plea to European member state leaders to approve the opening of accession talks for Macedonia. In a joint press conference with one of his main political allies in Brussels – outgoing Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn, Zaev again hinted that he may resign if French President Emmanuel Macron remains firm and rejects the opening of accession talks during the European Council later this week.

Don’t turn out the shining stars which we want to reach out. Don’t become our obstacles, be our heroes. October is now, we are in Brussels and we expect the deserved news that we begin accession talks for our strategic goal – EU membership. We approach honestly and fairly, we understand that some member states have need to open a debate on a new methodology for accession talks, but we are certain the two processes can go hand in hand. It is not an obstacle for the Republic of “North” Macedonia to receive a positive recommendation here and now. We need a positive decision here and now, Zaev said.

When asked by the press about his earlier statement, that a failure to receive the accession talks will bring down his Government, and if he plans to resign, Zaev confirmed this may happen, but left enough daylight for him to back off from such a decision.

In my appeal I called on the European leaders not to turn off our stars that are shining and lead us because if they do,we will be lost in the dark. In such circumstances there would definitely need to be accountability and I say what I feel. I of course announced what might happen. I don’t want to go into more details, because I very much believe in a positive decision, Zaev replied.

Commissioner Hahn also appealed to European Union leaders and especially to the skeptical countries led by France, to choose leadership, to look toward a long terms strategic goal to unite Europe, and to protect European credibility.

If this is not properly rewarded there is no incentive for Serbia and Kosovo for example to enter into a substantial dialogue about a future coexistence of the two countries. “North” Macedonia can demonstrate to the others what it means to undergo difficult reforms. There are talks and speeches that Europe should play a role on the global scale but if we can’t do this in our own courtyard we will lose credibility to do this in other places. We can work on further updating our methodology – nobody is perfect – but also on further reforms and steps toward integration in the union, Hahn said.

The Commission, which supports opening accession talks for both Macedonia and Albania, hoisted the Macedonian flag this morning in a sign of defiance toward France and its negative stance. Albanian journalists pressed Hahn whether this means that the Commission is giving up on Albania, which was seen as a more difficult case, but he reassured them that he will have a similar meeting with Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama tomorrow. An Albanian journalist asked Hahn if Albania should also change its name to be allowed to open the accession talks.
Zaev was evasive on the issue of whether he supports decoupling of Macedonia from Albania, which would definitely improve Macedonia’s chances to open the accession talks, but can hurt him politically with the Albanian voters in Macedonia, which are his important voting bloc, and the press clearly reminded Zaev of this issue.

We are not those who decide, but i can tell honestly that with our good friend and neighbor Albania we can help each other in the process, we can share experience, what we make wrong that they don’t make wrong, what we make positive, they make positive. There is complete confirmation that the Balkan change, we try even harder alone to strengthen the Berlin process, to go further in European economic area, but without help and motivation from European Union really I don’t know how we continuing in the future, but of course for the Western Balkans there is no alternative than full membership in EU, Zaev replied.

The opposition VMRO-DPMNE accused Zaev of not even initiating a process to decouple from Albania, and therefore sinking Macedonia’s chances, because he is in such political debt to Rama and the ethnic Albanian parties in Macedonia.

Zaev was also pressed by a Bulgarian journalist on implementing the requests contained in the Framework positions prepared by the main Bulgarian political leaders. He assured Sofia that Macedonia has already “solved” five or six historic figures, which Bulgaria wants to be acknowledged as ethnic Bulgarians, and also “completed four historical chapters” and that he believes the two countries will find a solution to the remaining issues raised by Bulgaria.