Macedonia is seen as one of Kosovo’s most vulnerable neighbours. The fledgling state, which only gained independence in 1991, faces a flood of refugees which could drain the country’s limited resources. The new arrivals from Kosovo could also stir up demands for autonomy among Macedonia’s own ethnic Albanians, who account for about a quarter of the country's 2m population, and have complained they are treated as second-class citizens.

The refugees from Kosovo have been described by the government as a threat to the country's stability which it is not equipped to cope with.

Macedonia's coalition government sees its security as linked closely to Nato, and has appealed for membership as a matter of urgency.