SKOPJE, North Macedonia (AP) — Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez has offered North Macedonia his country’s full support for integration into the 27-nation European Union.

Sanchez spoke with North Macedonian Prime Minister Dimitar Kovachevski on Sunday in the capital Skopje, ahead of the final leg of his Western Balkan tour, visiting Albania on Monday. He also visited Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro.

The Balkan countries are all at different stages of the EU accession process. EU officials have recently sought to encourage governments in the region to press ahead with reforms amid concerns over Russia’s efforts to boost its influence in the Balkans.

Sanchez said the war in Ukraine prompted the EU to rethink its enlargement policies and open its doors to countries in Eastern Europe and the Western Balkans.

“We are more united than ever. You can count on me for your European perspective,” Sanchez said in a joint press conference with Kovachevski.

The EU started accession talks with Albania and North Macedonia two weeks ago, a long-delayed step in the Balkan countries’ path to EU membership that has accelerated in middle of the war in Ukraine.

The decision came after North Macedonia’s parliament approved a deal overcoming Bulgaria’s objections and paved the way for the start of negotiations. Bulgaria had delayed progress in North Macedonia’s accession talks, accusing that government of disrespecting shared cultural, linguistic and historical ties.

Any expansion beyond the current 27 EU members will likely still be years away. Despite the delay, the Western Balkan nations have maintained their ambition to be part of the world’s largest trading bloc.

For North Macedonia, the last few years have been difficult. Disputes with EU members Greece and then Bulgaria have prevented the country’s bid from moving forward because any EU decision to add new members requires unanimous agreement.