Albania-Kosovo agreement rekindles old suspicions – Kosovo can’t obtain country code

Kosovo can’t obtain country code
The International Telecommunication Union cannot give Kosovo a country code until it clears a key hurdle.
By Linda Karadaku for Southeast European Times in Pristina — 31/10/11

Kosovars use Monaco and Slovenia’s country codes for their mobile phones. [Reuters]
Kosovo must become a UN member, or reach an agreement with Serbia, before it will be given its own country phone code.

Sanjay Acharya, spokesperson for the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), which is in charge of dealing with the issue, says after a country becomes a UN member, it then becomes an ITU member. Following that, technical procedures to assign a country code can begin.

Acharya told SETimes that „the real question is UN membership“, adding „[The procedure] has to be the same for every country.“

But the issue is not all that easy. In 2005, the UNMIK administration in Kosovo asked the ITU to give Kosovo a commercial phone code.

But the ITU did not approve the request, and Kosovo continues to use Serbia’s 381 country code.

The issue is now part of the EU-mediated talks between Kosovo and Serbia.

„The issue of telecommunications is still without agreement … it will continue to be discussed in the other rounds of technical dialogue,“ Dren Zeka, senior adviser to the head of the Kosovo team in the dialogue, Edita Tahiri, told SETimes.

Zeka explains that because Kosovo is not an ITU member, it uses codes of other countries. „Even though, as a former federal unit of the former Yugoslavia, a phone code had been reserved for it, Serbia has always hindered [the process], denying this right to Kosovo,“ Zeka told SETimes.

Albania-Kosovo agreement rekindles old suspicions
A deal to unify consular services abroad, to be followed by similar moves in all other sectors, is a source of concern for some about potential Albanian territorial aggression.
By Svetla Dimitrova for Southeast European Times in Sofia — 31/10/11

salih berisha
„Albanians should feel themselves the same in Tirana and in Pristina,“ Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha said.
An agreement to merge the Albanian and Kosovo consular services abroad has sparked concerns in parts of the Balkans that the deal is a step towards realising „Greater Albania „.

The accord was approved by Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha’s cabinet on October 20th. It would halve the two countries‘ consular costs, the government said.

„Albanians should feel the same in Tirana and in Pristina,“ Berisha said, calling also for similar deals in the fields of customs and taxes, as well as in the education, social, cultural and environmental sectors „and everything else“.

„We have to strengthen co-operation within the same legal framework and practices in order to reduce bureaucratic barriers between citizens of Albania and Kosovo,“ he said.

Kosovo analyst Seb Bytyci heading the Pristina-based Balkan Policy Institute echoed Tirana’s arguments.

„Kosovo and Albania are small countries without resources to have consulates everywhere,“ he told SETimes. „This deal enables them to provide better services to their citizens. Similar deals are common even among richer countries, who still feel the need to cut costs.“

The foreign ministries of Macedonia — which signed an agreement for joint consular representation with Slovenia — and Montenegro told SETimes they respect every country’s right to conduct its external and internal affairs.

„We welcome every initiative targeted at improving the regional co-operation,“ the Macedonian foreign ministry said, but added it „would not comment the statements and the relations between Kosovo and Albania“.

„I don’t see why should this disturb Montenegro,“ Deputy Foreign Minister Ivan Milic told SETimes.

Macedonian diplomacy expert Lazar Lazarov cautioned there is more to this kind of agreements than meets the eye.

„In the first phase you have rapprochement, joint customs and economy, but the second phase in this process usually is unification,“ Lazarov told SETimes. „It will be difficult for Kosovo to maintain its statehood in these circumstances. Both Albania and Kosovo seem to work on the ‚Greater Albania‘ project, mentioned first in 1878.“

Lazarov referred to the plan promoted by Albanian political organisation Prizren League, which aimed to unify in one state Albanians scattered across Kosovo, Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia and Greece in the 19th century.

Kosovo pledged in its 2008 independence declaration full respect for its neighbours‘ territorial integrity and for the borders assigned on Martti Ahtisaari’s plan for a settlement to the Kosovo status issue, approved by the UN.

Ian Bancroft, co-founder of the Belgrade-based TransConflict, argues the Ahtisaari Plan clearly states Kosovo can not seek to unite with another state, hence Berisha’s intent should be treated with a great deal of concern.

„If the government in Pristina will not uphold this important element of the Ahtisaari Plan, then it is hard to expect that it will uphold the other safeguards provided, which will breed further mistrust amongst Kosovo’s Serbs and other non-Albanian populations. The EU, in particular, therefore needs to be more explicit in its criticism of such steps,“ Bancroft told SETimes.