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News 22 Aug 16

Kosovo Rejects Serbia’s Wiretap Claims

Edita Tahiri, Kosovo’s Minister for Dialogue, rejected Belgrade’s claims that Pristina is trying to get access to state telecoms company Telekom Srbija’s system in order to tap Serbian phonecalls.

Die Morina, Sasa Dragojlo
BIRN
Pristina, Belgrade
 A Telekom Srbija transmitter. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Tahiri told BIRN that the wiretapping allegations made by the head of Serbia's office for Kosovo, Marko Djuric, after recent Belgrade-Pristina talks in Brussels, were false.

“With this statement, Djuric is hiding the unwillingness of Serbia to reach an agreement,” Tahiri said.

Belgrade and Pristina have blamed each other for failing during the talks to reach an agreement on equipment and transmitters in Kosovo owned by Serbia's state telecoms company Telekom Srbija - a row which is also preventing Kosovo from getting an international dialling code.

Djuric alleged that Kosovo wants toget access to the Telekom Srbija system in order to eavesdrop the phone lines of citizens across Serbia.

“They demanded access to the system of Telekom Srbija, something that would allow them to jeopardise security and tap our phones in a legal manner,” Djuric said last Thursday.

Pristina argues that to resolve the issue of Telekom Srbija’s equipment, a new company must be set up in Kosovo under Pristina’s legislation.

However Tahiri said this does not mean that Kosovo wants to exploit this situation to help it tap Serbian phones.

“It is about a new company which will take a temporary license to work in Kosovo. But this company must operate according to the Kosovo law on communication, part of which is also the law on wiretapping. It has to respect the laws of Kosovo. That is nothing to do with what Djuric stated,” she said.

Belgrade and Pristina signed a telecommunications agreement in August 2014, but both are interpreting it differently.

A spokesperson for Serbia’s government office for Kosovo, told BIRN that, according to the agreement, Telekom Srbija should establish a new “daughter company” which would be registered in Pristina.

“However, the Albanian side does not want the property in Kosovo to be established as being under the ownership of Telekom Srbija. They want that property to become Pristina’s property, which they will then rent back to us,” the spokesperson said.

Serbia’s Kosovo office argued that the negotiations should result in Telekom Srbija being allowed to operate right across Kosovo.

Serbia would then ask the UN telecoms agency, ITU, for an additional area code for Kosovo, which would be registered as a Serbian regional area code, the spokesperson added.

However, in line with an agreement reached between the EU, Kosovo and Austria last year, which was previously approved at the Belgrade-Pristina talks in Brussels, Vienna already filed an application to the ITU for an international dialling code for Kosovo in January.

Pristina’s delegation to the Brussels talks argued that any solution should be based on Kosovo’s legislation if it is to be implemented in Kosovo.

“The Serbian delegation, although it is a signatory to the agreement on telecommunications, tried on some issues to get out of Kosovo legislation in the process of implementation,” the Kosovo government said in a statement after the talks on August 16.

The agreement on telecommunications between Kosovo and Serbia that was signed in 2014 in Brussels has not been yet implemented.

Both sides have agreed that the ITU should give Kosovo a three-digit international dialling code.

To reach someone in Kosovo, mobile callers must currently dial the country code for either Monaco or Slovenia.

According to reports in local media, this costs Kosovo's largest mobile operator, Vala, nine million euros annually, while the second-biggest telecoms company, IPKO, pays a million euros a year for the service.

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