|“What do you mean, it’s a toll call to Gazimestan? When did this happen?”|
There are lots of explosive political issues that have arisen in the past couple decades as the Republic of Kosovo has struggled for recognition as a sovereign state—human rights, linguistic rights, ethnic animosities, the politics of memory, the scars of centuries of bloody Balkan history, and even (arising again this week) organ harvesting. But this week the Republic of Serbia, which still claims Kosovo, turned its attention to another divisive issue: telephone-number prefixes.
|The flags of Albania and Kosovo|
Kosovo’s parliament on September 6th directed the government to begin the process of abandoning the +381 country code, representing Serbia, and adopt +355, which represents Albania. (The move would also affect the mobile prefixes +377 and +386.) Kosovo is overwhelmingly ethnically Albanian, and Serb nationalists and some others suspect that Kosovar separatism is a ploy by Albanian nationalists to build a “greater Albania,” so even minor symbolic gestures of this type set off alarm bells in Belgrade. Serbia’s minister of trade and telecommunications, Rasim Ljajić, called Kosovo’s moves “abuse of the international agreements and standards.” Hamadoun Touré, secretary-general of the International Telecommunication Union, responding to such complaints from the Serbian government, met with Albania’s prime minister, Sali Berisha, this week and said in a joint press conference that technical, as well as political, problems argued against the move, and promised a final determination on the matter soon.
|Serbia fears plans for a “Greater Albania.” As usual, it starts with area codes.|
[Also, for those who are wondering, yes, this blog is tied in with a forthcoming book, a sort of encyclopedic atlas to be published by Auslander and Fox under the title Let’s Split! A Complete Guide to Separatist Movements, Independence Struggles, Breakaway Republics, Rebel Provinces, Pseudostates, Puppet States, Tribal Fiefdoms, Micronations, and Do-It-Yourself Countries, from Chiapas to Chechnya and Tibet to Texas. Look for it in spring 2013. I will be keeping readers posted of further publication news.]