PM and US Office object the license for mobile telephony

Prishtina, 29 June 2004 – The US has objected to the award of a license for Kosovo’s second mobile telephone network to local operator Mobikos over Swedish and American bids. Mobikos, owned by Kosovo businessman Ekrem Lluka and backed by Slovenian operator Mobitel, fought of bidders who included Sweden’s Tele2 AB and Washington mobile operator Western Wireless Corp.

“Potential investors will want to know this process was conducted in a professional and transparent fashion,” the head of the US office in Kosovo, Marcie Ries, said in a statement. “The sudden announcement of the decision of the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority Board (TRA) today raises questions regarding the process followed to arrive at that decision.”

Mobikos’s bid was accepted ahead of competitors including US company Western Wireless International, in cooperation with local provider IPKO, as well as Sweden-based Tele2 and Norwegian-Albanian Albacell. Ries urged local authorities to ensure that the tender process was “carried out fairly and properly”. She said the US mission was concerned “whether there was sufficient time for a comprehensive review of the thousands of pages of technical documentation submitted only in English”.

Kosovo Prime Minister Bajram Rexhepi sent the UN mission here a request that the decision be reversed “until allegations for misconduct and corruption are dismissed. Allegations of corruption are circulating, whereas independence of the TRA Board seems to be seriously questioned,” Rexhepi said in a letter sent to the UN mission in Kosovo and obtained by AFP.

The head of the TRA board, Anton Berisha, said Mobikos, in a joint bid with Slovenia’s Mobitel, was the most convincing bidder with a “clear business plan and a detailed technical plan”. He said the TRA, set-up by the Kosovo assembly to oversee the bidding process and select the provider, had named an international and a local committee of experts to deal with the technical issues. “The board members are not supposed to go through all the technical details, otherwise there would be no need for the expert committees,” Berisha told AFP.