Serbia’s state-controlled telecommunications company warned that a potential shutdown of its services in neighboring Kosovo in the midst of simmering ethnic tensions would violate a European Union-sponsored agreement.
(Bloomberg) — Serbia’s state-controlled telecommunications company warned that a potential shutdown of its services in neighboring Kosovo in the midst of simmering ethnic tensions would violate a European Union-sponsored agreement.
Telekom Srbija Chief Executive Officer Vladimir Lucic said in an interview that the company will file a complaint and possibly other legal notices should its Kosovo arm, MTS, face disruption. The unit’s certificate was revoked by Kosovo authorities, who said an executive’s identification violated the country’s constitution.
MTS is registered in Kosovo and provides mobile, land-line and cable services primarily to ethnic Serbs in Albanian-majority Kosovo under an EU-brokered agreement between the Balkan adversaries dating to 2013.
A shutdown would be a “clear violation of the rule of law and infringes on the ratified agreements between Pristina, Belgrade and the EU established in the ongoing dialog,” Lucic said by phone, referring to years of EU mediation to help the wartime foes mend ties.
At stake are services to some 80,000 customers and 250 jobs, mainly in Serb-majority municipalities where violence erupted earlier this year. Dozens were injured in clashes, including NATO-led peacekeepers deployed there since Serbs and ethnic Albanians fought over Kosovo in a 1998-99 war.
Authorities in Pristina revoked the certificate because a Serbian executive, Zoran Milojevic, possessed an identification document that referred to his place of birth, Mitrovica in northern Kosovo, as located within Serbia. The designation presents a “serious threat” to public safety, authorities said in a document. The company has 30 days to appeal the decision.
Kosovo’s Trade Ministry is reviewing the registration of dozens of business over “unconstitutional content,” it said in a Facebook post. It said it has revoked certificates of 15 companies, including MTS, over data that mention their operations as located in Serbia, not Kosovo.
Kosovo unilaterally declared independence in 2008, a move that Serbia has never recognized. The EU has stipulated that both countries have to mend ties in order to qualify for membership in the 27-member bloc.
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