A caretaker government of technicians will take over from Zaev's Social Democrat-led coalition on Jan. 3, 100 days before the election. Zaev had asked Saturday for an early election, speaking of his "disappointment and outrage" on the EU's failure to start membership talks with North Macedonia and Albania.
France, supported by Denmark and the Netherlands, strongly opposed membership talks, calling for an overhaul of the procedure to admit new members. Zaev had staked his political future on an agreement with Greece, concluded in 2018, that changed the country's name from Macedonia and settling a decades-long name dispute with its neighbor.
Greece considered that the name "Macedonia" was an attempt to steal its own Macedonian heritage and might imply territorial designs on its northern province of Macedonia. Included in the accord was a statement that the current state of Macedonia and the ancient Greek kingdom of Macedonia are unrelated.
The agreement was ratified despite heavy criticism by opposition parties and hardline nationalists in both countries. While the agreement paved the way for Macedonia's entry into NATO, the EU route is being blocked for now.
Demetris Nellas contributed to this report from Athens, Greece.