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|8th Prime Minister of North Macedonia|
31 May 2017 – 3 January 2020
|Preceded by||Emil Dimitriev|
|Succeeded by||Oliver Spasovski|
|Leader of the Opposition|
2 June 2013 – 31 May 2017
|Preceded by||Branko Crvenkovski|
|Succeeded by||Nikola Gruevski|
|Mayor of Strumica|
22 March 2005 – 22 December 2016
|Preceded by||Kiril Janev|
|Succeeded by||Kostadin Kostadinov|
|Born||8 October 1974|
Strumica, SR Macedonia, Yugoslavia
|Political party||Social Democratic Union|
|Alma mater||Ss. Cyril and Methodius University of Skopje|
Zoran Zaev (Macedonian: Зоран Заев, [ˈzɔran ˈza(j)ɛf]; born 8 October 1974) is a Macedonian economist and politician who served as the Prime Minister of North Macedonia from 31 May 2017 to 3 January 2020. Prior to taking office as Prime Minister, Zaev was a member of Macedonian parliament between 2003 and 2005, and mayor of Strumica between 2005 and 2016. He is president of the centre-left Social Democratic Union of Macedonia.
Early life and education
Zoran Zaev was born on 8 October 1974 in Strumica. He spent his childhood in the village of Murtino, as his family is from there, and he moved to Strumica later. He experienced the farming life in Murtino by helping his family. After finishing elementary and high school in his hometown, he enrolled at the Faculty of Economics in Skopje from which he graduated in 1997. Zaev earned a master's degree in monetary economics at the same university. He and his spouse Zorica married early in their life.
Zaev became a member of the Social Democratic Union of Macedonia in 1996. He was elected as chairman of the party's Strumica regional administration two times. He served as the party's Vice President between 2006 and 2008. He won three consecutive local elections and served as mayor of Strumica from 2005 to 2016. After Branko Crvenkovski stepped down as SDSM's leader in 2013, Zaev was elected as a new leader. In addition, he served as a member of parliament from 2003 to 2005. Following the 2016 parliamentary election, Zaev formed a coalition government with support from the Democratic Union for Integration and the Alliance for Albanians in May 2017.
In January 2015, Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski accused Zaev of an alleged conspiracy with a foreign intelligence service and diplomats to topple the Government, and involvement in the allegedly attempted coup d'état. Zaev subsequently accused Gruevski of wiretapping and illegally spying on at least 20,000 people in the country. The public prosecutor, on the other hand, accused Zaev of blackmailing Gruevski and detained five people connected with that case. The case was later dropped due to insufficient evidence.
Following his election as president of the SDSM, Zaev became leader of the opposition. In that role, Zaev took part in June 2015 in a meeting with Gruevski and Johannes Hahn, the European Union's enlargement commissioner, in order to overcome the political crisis. The negotiations resulted in the Pržino Agreement, which foresaw a caretaker government to organize a snap election in April 2016 and a Special Public Prosecution to investigate the wiretaps scandal. Zaev threatened to boycott the election because of Gruevski's obstruction of the Pržino Agreement and the reforms in the judiciary system and the media.
On 31 May 2017 the Macedonian parliament confirmed Zaev as the new Prime Minister, with 62 out of 120 MPs voting in favor. The voting ended months of political uncertainty. A survey of 1,159 citizens carried out in June 2017 by the Macedonian Brima Gallup International Association, showed that 62% of the population supported Zaev as a Prime Minister. During his speech, Zaev presented the program of the new government, saying that joining NATO and the EU would be its priority in the following years. He also promised economic growth and an end to corruption by announcing a "responsible, reformist and European government".
Some newspapers interpreted some of Zaev's statements for the newspapers BGNES and Kurir as a claim asserting the Macedonians as one people with the Bulgarians or the Serbs. What Zaev was recorded as saying on the original video interview of the Bulgarian newspaper BGNES was "I want to send a message to all the citizens of Bulgaria. We are brotherly people, the same folk." He stated during an interview for the Serbian newspaper Kurir, "The Serbs and the Macedonians are brotherly people" and "Nobody asked Zoran Zaev to do anything against Macedonians, against Serbs, against any ethnic community, or against any of our neighbors. We heard allegations asserting Zaev as condemning Serbia for a genocide. It's for me the same my people."
Negotiations with Bulgaria for a treaty for friendship and cooperation
North Macedonia and Bulgaria have complicated neighbourly relations. In 2012 Bulgaria joined Greece in blocking Macedonia from obtaining a start date for EU accession talks. Bulgaria has accused Macedonia of discriminating against ethnic Bulgarians and of generating an anti-Bulgarian atmosphere in the country. Prospects for improved relations between the two countries have risen since Zaev-led government took power in Skopje in May 2017. In June in a meeting with Zaev in Sofia, PM Boyko Borisov said Bulgaria would back Macedonia’s bid to join the European Union and NATO and would also sign a long-delayed friendship treaty with it. As a result, the two governments signed a friendship treaty to bolster the relations between the two Balkan states on 1 August. It was preceded by 18 years of heavy negotiations. The treaty calls for a committee to "objectively re-examine the common history" of the two countries and envisages both countries will celebrate together events from their shared history. "Macedonia and Bulgaria have a lot of common history and this is the stepping stone for Macedonia's European and Euro-Atlantic future", Zaev said during the ceremony in Skopje. The treaty was ratified by the parliament of the Republic of Macedonia on 15 January 2018 and by the Bulgarian parliament a few days later.
Negotiations with Greece for naming dispute
During the last years in Opposition and also in his inauguration speech, the new Prime Minister Zoran Zaev vowed his determination to resolve the decades-old dispute with Greece. Efforts between the governments of the two countries for resolving the name dispute intensified, and on 17 January 2018, UN-sponsored negotiations had resumed, with the Greek and Macedonian ambassadors Adamantios Vassilakis and Vasko Naumovski meeting with the UN Envoy at Washington, who suggested five names in his proposal, all containing the name "Macedonia" transliterated from Cyrillic.
After the Zaev-Tsipras meeting in Davos, Zaev announced that streets and locations such as the Alexander the Great airport in Skopje which were named by the nationalist VMRO-DPMNE after Ancient Macedonian heroes and figures such as Alexander the Great, could be renamed as a sign of goodwill towards Greece. Specifically, Zaev declared that the Alexander the Great Highway, the E-75 motorway that connects Skopje to Greece, could be renamed to "Friendship Highway". In exchange, the Greek PM announced that Greece could consent to Macedonia's bid to the Adriatic-Ionian Cooperation Agreement and the Greek Parliament could ratify the second phase of the European Union Association Agreement with Macedonia as part of the accession of North Macedonia to the European Union which was blocked in 2009 by Greece owing to the name dispute.
In late February 2018, the government and institutions of the Republic of Macedonia announced the halt of the Skopje 2014 program, which aimed to make Macedonia’s capital have a "more classical appeal" and begun removing its controversial monuments and statues. In Spring 2018, extensive negotiations in a bid to resolve the naming dispute were held in rounds, with frequent meetings of the Foreign Ministers of Greece and Macedonia achieving tangible progress on the naming dispute.
On 12 June 2018, Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras announced that an agreement had been reached with his Macedonian counterpart Zoran Zaev on the dispute, "which covers all the preconditions set by the Greek side". The proposal would result in the (former) Republic of Macedonia being renamed the Republic of North Macedonia (Macedonian: Република Северна Македонија, romanized: Republika Severna Makedonija; Greek: Δημοκρατία της Βόρειας Μακεδονίας), with the new name being used for all purposes. Zaev announced that the deal includes recognition of the Macedonian language in the United Nations and that the citizens of the country will be called, as before, Macedonians. However there is an explicit clarification that the citizens of the country are not related to any Hellenic civilization previously inhabiting the region.
On 5 July, the Prespa agreement was ratified again by the parliament of Macedonia with 69 MPs voting in favor of it. On 11 July, NATO invited Macedonia to start accession talks in a bid to become the EuroAtlantic alliance’s 30th member. On 30 July, the parliament of Macedonia approved plans to hold a non-binding referendum on changing the country's name that took place on 30 September. The decisive vote to amend the constitution and change the name of the country passed on 11 January 2019 in favor of the amendment. The amendment entered into force following the ratification of the Prespa agreement and the Protocol of Accession of North Macedonia to NATO by the Greek Parliament.
Relations to Albania and Albanians of North Macedonia
Zoran Zaev has a relative good relationship with Albania and the Albanians of North Macedonia. During the 2016 Macedonian parliamentary election in 2016, he supported the Albanian parties and the Tirana-Platform, which was an agreement betwenn SDSM, BDI and BESA made in Tirana, Albania. Zaev managed to win the elections in North Macedonia however the President Gjorge Ivanov didn't accept him as a new prime minister. Ivanov said he refused to give a mandate to form the country's new government to SDSM leader Zoran Zaev - who reached a coalition agreement with ethnic Albanian parties. He refuses to give such a mandate "to anyone who negotiates platforms of foreign countries that blackmail the Macedonian people, jeopardizes the integrity of the state, its sovereignty and independence." This led to the Macedonian political crisis (2015–2017) and the storming of Macedonian Parliament in which a lot of Macedonians and the rulling party VMRO-DPMNE feard of more Albanian influence in North Macedonia.
The VMRO-DPMNE described Zaev and SDSM as traitors who are paid from Albania and foreign countries, who want to introduce Albanian as a second official language throughout the country and who want to federalize North Macedonia.
During an interview with Top Channel, Zoran Zaev describes Albania as the friendliest country for North Macedonia and that it is a 100% friendship, mutual support for progress, a common future and a better future for citizens. Zaev pointed out that trade between Tirana and Skopje increased by 11.5 percent last year and that both countries have considerable capacity to do other tasks.
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За България ние сме братски хора, един народ. (original in video 2:37-2:45 Jас сакам да изпратам парака до сите грагани на Бугариjа - ние сме братски хора, същи народ.)
- (KURIR TV) DA SE NE LAŽEMO! INTERVJU ZORAN ZAEV: Srbi su naša braća, Gruevski je KRIMINALAC!.
A Srbi i Makedonci su bratski narod...Niko nije tražio da Zoran Zaev uradi nešto protiv Makedonaca, protiv Srba, protiv bilo koje etničke zajednice ili protiv bilo koga od naših suseda. Čuli smo optužbe da je Zaev prihvatio da tuži Srbiju za genocid. To je za mene isti, moj narod.
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| Leader of the Opposition
| Prime Minister of North Macedonia