Kosovo and Macedonia agreed to establish full diplomatic ties after solving a border disagreement over a territory of some 300 hectares between the two landlocked parts of the former Yugoslavia, to which both Pristina and Skopje had harboured pretensions.
Macedonia's prime minister, Nikola Gruevski, stated that his country had not lost "a single millimetre", adding that "an open wound" that could have been infected at any time had been healed.
The ratification of the physical demarcation of Macedonia's border with Kosovo is of bilateral but also European relevance, the country's Foreign Minister Antonio Milososki is quoted as saying on the government's website.
The Swedish EU Presidency welcomed the developments. "It is an encouraging sign of responsibility and maturity when mutually acceptable solutions are found to outstanding issues between neighbours. The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia has now become the first country from the former Yugoslavia whose border demarcation is complete," the statement reads.
The move was also welcomed by the USA. "We commend the leadership of both countries for their resolve in taking a significant step toward Euro-Atlantic integration by establishing good neighbourly relations and enhancing regional stability," reads a State Department press release.
After the collapse of the former Yugoslavia, 5,000 km of new internal borders were created within that territory (EurActiv 14/10/09). Border issues could plague the enlargement prospects of the Western Balkans, diplomats told EurActiv.
Not unexpectedly, Serbia reacted angrily to the news of the Macedonia-Kosovo border agreement.
Quoted by AFP, Serbian Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic condemned the agreement as "deplorable" and warned Skopje and Pristina of unspecified consequences.
Serbia does not recognise Kosovo and rejects conducting any border discussions on its former province without Belgrade's full involvement.
Russian support to Belgrade
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, who is expected in Belgrade on Tuesday (20 October), said that no-one is entitled to settle the issue of Kosovo's independence without Serbia having its say, RIA Novosti agency reported.
Medvedev's trip to Serbia, during which he will attend celebrations to mark the 65th anniversary of the liberation of Belgrade from Nazi forces, will be the first visit to the country by a Russian head of state since Vladimir Putin's trip in 2001.
Russian agency ITAR TASS reports that during the visit the two sides will discuss the allocation of a 1 billion euro loan to Serbia. Belgrade plans to spend a third of that sum on covering the budget deficit, and two-thirds on infrastructural projects involving Russian companies, such as the construction of the Belgrade metro, a circular road and a modern railroad hub.
The Russian agency also reports plans to open "a base at Niš airport [...] for rapid delivery of Russian and Serbian rescuers to disaster zones". Niš is situated in southern Serbia, not far from Kosovo.