Serbia is blocking Kosovo’s efforts for a new country dialing code, asking in return for an expansion of its own Telekom of Serbia branch across Kosovo’s territory and seeking to keep all Kosovo Telekom assets, which it holds since the 1999 war.
Kosovo’s leaders remain firm in their position in that they are not prepared to negotiate on such grounds and that Kosovo as an independent country deserves to have its own international country code and full control on its assets.
For over one year, Kosovo’s request remains shelved with the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), a UN organization located in Geneva which assigns the international codes.
According to ITU rules, an applicant country must first be recognized by the UN as an independent state, then it can apply for a country code. This ensures that ISO entries are allocated only to territories considered sufficiently ‘independent’ by the United Nations, even though they may be under a higher power.
The only exceptions to this rule are Antarctica and Western Sahara.
Kosovo like Palestine, Niue, Cook Islands, and Taiwan, though not Member States of the UN, are members of UN Agencies.
However, despite ITU rules on UN membership, Serbia and Kosovo agreed in 2013 under EU pressure to settle the telecom disagreements by signing a deal where Kosovo could have its own country code, providing that Serbia officially expressed an engagement of non-objection to the ITU.
Edita Tahiri, Kosovo’s chief negotiator with Serbia said that after the latest round of talks this week, Serbia has demanded that their Telekom fully controls the assets in Kosovo before it can agree to a new country code.
Kosovo and Serbia are slowly improving their relations since Kosovo’s split from Serbia in February 2008 when they claimed their independence as the Republic of Kosovo, following a war that lasted from 1998 to 1999.
Serbia has since come to recognize the province’s government, though they refuse to validate their legitimacy as an independent country, claiming that they are still a territory of Serbia.
However, through heavy EU mediation, both Serbia and Kosovo signed a landmark agreement in 2015 in Brussels currently being monitored under the hospices of EU top diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini.