SKOPJE, North Macedonia (AP) — Sweden is offering support to North Macedonia’s efforts to join the European Union despite a big setback last month.

Foreign Minister Ann Linde says Sweden is “aware of the disappointment” in North Macedonia at the EU’s failure to begin membership talks last month.

France led a group of EU countries calling for an overhaul of the procedures to admit new members before beginning discussions with North Macedonia and neighboring Albania.

After talks Monday with North Macedonian Foreign Minister Nikola Dimitrov in Skopje, Linde said it is “essential” the small Balkan country to continue implementing EU-requested reforms as part of its accession bid.

The EU’s failure to commence talks has prompted North Macedonia’s government to call early elections next year.

North Macedonia is set to formally join NATO within weeks.

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