EU hails Macedonia and Kosovo for solving border quarrel

Nikola Gruevski [Wikimedia]

The Swedish EU Presidency welcomed on Saturday (17 October) the resolution of the border dispute and the establishment of diplomatic relations between Macedonia and Kosovo. Both Serbia and Russia are at odds with the decision, with Moscow warning that no Kosovo-related issue can be decided without Belgrade’s consent.

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. 

Kosovo unilaterally declared independence from Serbia in February 2008, nine years after the end of the 1999 war between Belgrade's security forces and ethnic Albanian guerrillas. In the following years, Kosovo became an international protectorate patrolled by NATO peacekeepers. 

Over the past year, the two million-strong republic, 90% of which is composed of ethnic Albanians, has established many of the trappings of statehood, including a new constitution. 

More than 50 countries have recognised Kosovo, including the US and most EU members (except Spain, Cyprus, Romania and Slovakia). Serbia, backed by Russia, is opposed to Kosovo's independence. 

Macedonia recognised Kosovo's independence in October 2008, six months after its unilateral declaration of independence. 

The EU decided in February 2008 to deploy a rule of law mission, dubbed 'EULEX Kosovo', with the intention of taking over post-crisis management in a territory on the European continent. The aim of the operation is to assist and support the Kosovo authorities with the rule of law, specifically regarding the police, the judiciary and customs. 

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