hidden europe 9

What's in a number?

by hidden europe


An essay inspired by the Pope's telephone number! The politics of dialling codes that somehow contrive to associate Greenland with Africa.

We are no experts on the magic of modern telephony. But we do use telephones, and the great majority of our calls are, given the nature of our work, international ones. So we have come to learn a thing or two about dialling codes. That for calls to Britain, we dial +44 and for Ireland +353 as prefixes to the national number. But only latterly have we realised that hidden behind the seemingly innocent bureaucracy of a few numbers is a remarkable amount of politics.

Had you noticed, for example, that Vatican City has a new dialling code? Previously, if you needed to call the Pope then +39 was the dialling code - the same as for Italy. But now Pope Benedict can be reached via the new prefix +379.

Montenegro's new found status as an independent state will probably prompt local doubts about the wisdom of sharing +381 with Serbia.

This is just an excerpt. The full text of this article is not yet available to members with online access to hidden europe. Of course you can read the full article in the print edition of hidden europe 9.
Related note

Small is beautiful: the view from the Vatican

Rarely has the Vatican been so much in the spotlight as over the last week or two. The dog days of a papacy have never in recent times been quite so clearly defined as they were in February 2013. Benedict’s announcement on 12 February ushered in 16 days of preparations for that moment last Thursday evening when the Pope stepped back from office. Important ecclesiastic business was immediately shelved. We find it interesting what business was still transacted in the second half of February.