The newly separated republics of Serbia and Montenegro have just been officially assigned individual country codes by ISO (International Organization for Standardization) for use in multiple applications including Internet domain names, machine-readable passports and electronic financial transactions.

The Republic of Serbia has been assigned the following two- and three-letter codes: RS, SRB.

The corresponding codes assigned to the Republic of Montenegro are the following: ME, MNE.

The codes have been assigned by the ISO 3166 Maintenance Agency. ISO 3166 is a series of standards providing codes for the representation of the names of countries and their subdivisions.

The two-letter “alpha-2” country codes are the most widely used and are familiar to millions of people because they appear as country identifiers in Internet Web site addresses (technically known as “top level domains”). They also form the stem for other codes, such as the ISO currency codes used by business and financial organizations worldwide. The three-letter “alpha-3” codes, which allow a closer visual link between the code and the name of the country it represents, are used in other applications, such the identification of nationality.

In addition to Internet, significant uses of ISO 3166 codes include the following:

  • International mail is exchanged between national postal authorities in containers carrying ISO 3166 codes for identification of the country of destination.
  • In machine-readable passports, the three-letter code of ISO 3166 is used to identify the nationality of the user (ISO/IEC 7501-1).
  • Currencies are identified by a code based on the ISO 3166 which identifies them in international transactions (ISO 4217).
  • The International Securities Identification Number (ISO 6166) is a system which builds on the ISO 3166 codes to allow the precise identification of shares issued in one country, but traded internationally.

Significant users of ISO 3166 country codes include agencies of the United Nations such as the Economic Commission for Europe (UN/ECE), the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) and the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO); international or regional organizations such as the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the Energy Technology Data Exchange (ETDE) of the International Energy Agency and the European Union (EU), as well as business organizations such as Federal Express (FedEx).

ISO Secretary-General Alan Bryden commented: “ISO 3166 is an emblematic series of standards. On the one hand, it is an example of one of the enduring, traditional benefits of international standardization in establishing a consensus on terminology, symbols or codes. On the other hand, its use on the Internet and in millions of electronic operations worldwide every day in which data needs to be identified in relation to geographic location shows that ISO standards also provide solutions for the most modern challenges.”

The two-letter codes (addressed in the ISO 3166-1 standard) are available free-of-charge on the ISO 3166 Maintenance Agency’s Web site. This site provides a great deal of information on the ISO 3166 standards, including an explanation of who participates in the Maintenance Agency and what their tasks are, the involvement of the United Nations, and answers to Frequently Asked Questions.