As the state union of Serbia and Montenegro dissolved following the independence referendum in Montenegro, newly independent Serbia dealt with the issue of assignment of country codes. This task, which could seem trivial, is made hugely complex by the number of countries in the world having names which begin with the letter
S. In September 2006, the proposal of the Serbian government to obtain the code
RS (Republic of Serbia) was accepted by ISO.
|Code||Country status||International status||Result|
|ISO 3166-1 alpha-2, also TLD||Decided||Confirmed by ISO|
|ISO 3166-1 alpha-3||Decided||Confirmed by ISO|
|International licence plate code||Not yet determined|
|Country calling code||Decided||Confirmed by ITU||+381|
|ISO 4217 currency code for Serbian dinar||Decided||Confirmed by ISO|
This code, used also as Internet TLD, was a major problem with the ISO's assignment of country codes to Serbia. All combinations of
S as a first letter and any other letter in word Serbia, or even Srbija (in Serbian), are already taken by other states:
|Sao Tome and Principe|
|Svalbard and Jan Mayen|
The Government of Serbia made an official request that the alpha-2 code for Serbia should be
RS (Republic of Serbia), but there is an ISO recommendation against any reference to the form of government in these codes.
RS could also be an abbreviation for the historical name of today's Serbia, Raška or Rascia which would be in full compliance with this rule (see .ch). The proposal, after an initial rejection by ISO, was accepted in September 2006.
There are at least four examples where the rule against inclusion of government form was broken (Democratic Republic of the Congo has the code
CD, Federated States of Micronesia has the code
FM, Switzerland has the code
CH that stems from country's official Latin name Confœderatio Helvetica, and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea has the code
KP, despite the fact that the codes
KA are available), and Serbia had good arguments for the use of the
RS code, because not a single one of the free codes beginning with
S can be associated with it.
RS is also frequently used as an acronym for Republika Srpska, an entity of nearby Bosnia and Herzegovina; this is not a conflict but adds the potential for confusion. Other solutions could have been "generic"
SS was likely to be avoided for its association with the Nazi Schutzstaffel.
As this code is also to be used as Internet top-level domain for the country, there had been rumours of approaching either International Organization for Standardization, United Nations or one of the countries in the list in order to switch the codes.
Negotiating the purchase or usage of the .sj Internet domain reserved for Svalbard and Jan Mayen was not a plausible option as Norway, which administers this (through UNINETT Norid), has a policy of not commercializing or disposing of this domain.
SB is a historic code for Serbia, it was hinted that the country could pursue talks with Solomon Islands, the current owner of that code. However, it is worth noting that since ISO 3166-1 requires that a code is unused for five years before it can be re-used, this may not be possible even with the consent of the ISO and the previous holder, as users of the standard may object.
A choice between the English mnemonic
SER or the Serbian
SRB was the main issue with the alpha-3 code. A possible compromise between the two,
SBA, was also mentioned. (
SRB should be immediately recognizable by speakers of most European languages, including English, though.)
The Institute for Standardization of Serbia, in line with the proposed alpha-2 code (
SP), decided that
SPA should be the alpha-3 code for Serbia. The logic of this proposal was unclear, since this decision had not been elaborated by the Institute. However, the decision resulted in a public outcry and was amended by the Government of Serbia, which proposed
SRB for the alpha-3 code. This was accepted by the ISO in September 2006.
Although one would presume that countries take on the shortest code possible (by rule the same as their ISO 3166-1 alpha-2), that is not the case. Thus, the "attractive"
SB are available for Serbia, as Suriname uses
SME, while the Solomon Islands are identified by
SRB had been advertised by the press as the likely solution — even though the Kingdom of Serbia used
SB from 1911 to 1919, when it was replaced by
SHS, followed by
S was taken by Sweden the same year, making it unavailable for Serbia, despite being one of the first 17 countries in the world to be assigned this code.
SR are available for this purpose, official government bodies and the media are still maintaining the claim that the international license plate code for Serbia should (and could only) be its ISO-3166-1 alpha-3 code,
Serbia will keep the telephone country calling code previously assigned to Serbia and Montenegro, +381. Following the breakup of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, the country code +38 was divided amongst the newly independent states:
|Bosnia and Herzegovina||+387|
Two other codes from the 38 sequence have also been assigned:
|European Telephony Numbering Space||+388|
Montenegro was assigned +382 on 6 September 2006. The new code was phased in during 2007.
This code is used for national currency, in this case the Serbian dinar. This three-letter code is composed of, by rule, first two letters of the ISO 3166-1 alpha-2 and a third letter is initial of the currency itself:
RSD. Exceptions from the rule are made only in the third letter, if that suits the country better — however that is not the case here.