Czech Republic urges EU to start talks with North Macedonia

Czech Republic’s Prime Minister Andrej Babis, left, and North Macedonia’s Prime Minister Zoran Zaev make a joke at the beginning of a news conference, after their meeting at the government building in Skopje, North Macedonia, Tuesday, June 11, 2019. Prime Minister Babis arrived Tuesday in an one day official visit to North Macedonia. (AP Photo/Boris Grdanoski)

SKOPJE, North Macedonia (AP) — The Czech prime minister is urging the European Union to start accession talks with North Macedonia, saying failure to do so would send the wrong message to would-be members of the bloc.

Andrej Babish says EU leaders should “keep their word” in starting negotiations with the small Balkan country, which changed its name from Macedonia under a deal to normalize relations with neighboring Greece.

The agreement earlier this year was designed to ease North Macedonia’s way into NATO and the EU — which Greece opposed for years because of the name dispute.

North Macedonia has been a candidate to join the 28-nation union since 2005. Its government hopes accession talks will start by the autumn.

Babish spoke following talks in Skopje Tuesday with North Macedonia Prime Minister Zoran Zaev.

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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