North Macedonia's Prime Minister has warned that the agreement with Greece that led to his country's renaming could be in danger.
Zoran Zaev's comments follow the European Union’s decision not to begin accession negotiations with the Balkan nation after France vetoed the motion.
The renaming had resolved a long-running dispute with Greece and it was seen as a bar to North Macedonia's membership of both the EU and NATO.
France's veto against the opening of EU accession talks was described as a historical mistake by top EU officials. For many, in doing so, the French President might have jeopardised the EU's decade-long strategy towards the Balkans.
Zaev told Euronews’ Efi Koutsokosta that he regarded the failure to begin accession talks as a betrayal:
“All countries of the western Balkans have an EU integration agenda, but in my country happened a lot of positive things. We are a very rare positive example in terms of bilateral issues here in the region. The agreement with Greece is a rare kind of agreement. This kind of agreement has been present in the past only after wars, when the politicians sit and make agreements.
“We changed our name, we changed our constitution, we got the majority in a process of 120 days, a very painful process because there were a lot of threats by the nationalists and radicals in our country and after that, the message (from Europe) was “OK, you are ready” but now we are not ready. Really, we can wait but it's a big disappointment for us.
"We changed everything in the country. We changed all signs in our public institutions, signs with all our neighbours in the airports, in our documentation, websites, everything. We are in the process.”
Zaev is anxious that the stalling in EU accession talks could encourage the return of nationalism and extremism:
“I'm afraid very much. If there is positive soil for nationalism and radicalism to rise again, it will mean big damage to the whole Balkans. And when the Balkans have a problem, Europe has a problem."