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.

Czech Republic's Prime Minister Andrej Babis, left, and North Macedonia's Prime Minister Zoran Zaev shake hands at the end of their news conference 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)
North Macedonia's Prime Minister Zoran Zaev talks to the media during a news conference with Czech Republic's Prime Minister Andrej Babis 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)
Czech Republic's Prime Minister Andrej Babis takes part in a news conference with North Macedonia's Prime Minister Zoran Zaev 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)