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Diplomacy in Action

Bosnia and Herzegovina (11/04)


For the most current version of this Note, see Background Notes A-Z.

The Bosnia and Herzegovina flag is a wide medium blue vertical band on the fly side with a yellow isosceles triangle abutting the band and the top of the flag; the remainder of the flag is medium blue with seven full five-pointed white stars and two half stars top and bottom along the hypotenuse of the triangle. 2004. 


Bosnia and Herzegovina

Area: 51,233 sq. km, slightly smaller than West Virginia.
Cities: Capital--Sarajevo (est. pop 387,876); Banja Luka (220,407); Mostar (208,904); Tuzla (118,500); Bihac (49,544).
Terrain: Mountains in the central and southern regions, plains along the Sava River in the north.
Climate: Hot summers and cold winters; areas of high elevation have short, cool summers and long, severe winters; mild, rainy winters in the southeast.

Nationalities: Bosniak (Muslim), Bosnian Croat, Bosnian Serb.
Population (July 2002 est.): 3,964,388 (note: all data dealing with population are subject to considerable error because of the dislocations caused by military action and ethnic cleansing).
Population growth rate (2002 est.): 0.76%.
Ethnic groups: Bosniak 48.3%, Serb 34.0%, Croat 15.4%, others 2.3%. (Source: UNDP Human Development Report 2002--Bosnia-Herzegovina)
Religions: Muslim (40%); Orthodox (31%); Catholic (15%); Protestant (4%); other (10%).
Languages: Bosnian, Serbian, Croatian (formerly "Serbo-Croatian").
Education: Mandatory 8 years of primary school, 4 years in secondary school, and 4 years in universities and academies. In Bosnia and Herzegovina, there are 407 primary schools with 250,000 students, 171 secondary schools with 80,000 students, 6 universities in the major cities (Sarajevo, Mostar, Banja Luka, Tuzla, and Bihac) and 6 academies (4 pedagogic and 2 art academies).
Education: Adult literacy rate--male 94.1%, female 78.0%.
Health: Infant mortality rate--23.53 deaths/1,000. Life expectancy--male 71.0, female 75.0.
Work force (total): 633,860.

Type: Parliamentary democracy.
Constitution: The Dayton Agreement, signed December 14, 1995, included a new constitution now in force.
Independence: April 1992 (from Yugoslavia).
Branches: Executive--Chairman of the Presidency and two other members of three-member rotating presidency (chief of state), Chairman of the Council of Ministers (head of government), Council of Ministers (cabinet). Legislative--bicameral parliamentary assembly, consisting of national House of Representatives and House of Peoples (parliament). Judicial--Supreme Court, Constitutional Court, both supervised by the Ministry of Justice.
Subdivisions: Two entities: Muslim/Croat Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (divided into 10 cantons) and Republika Srpska.
Political parties: Party of Democratic Action (SDA); Croatian Democratic Union of BiH (HDZ-BiH); Serb Democratic Party (SDS); Party for Bosnia and Herzegovina (SBiH); Civic Democratic Party (GDS); Croatian Peasants' Party of BiH (HSS); Independent Social Democratic Party (SNSD); Liberal Party (LS); Republican Party of Bosnia and Herzegovina (RS); Serb Civic Council (SGV); Social Democratic Party (SDP); Socialist Party of Republika Srpska (SPRS); Democratic Socialist Party (DSP); Social Democrats of Bosnia Herzegovina; Party for Democratic Progress (PDP); National Democratic Union (DNZ); Serb National Alliance (SNS); Coalition for a United and Democratic BiH (coalition of SDA, SBiH, LS, and GDS).
Suffrage: Universal at age 18.

GDP (2001 est., purchasing power parity): $4.7 billion.
GDP growth rate ( 2001 est.): 2.3%.
Income per capita (1997 est., purchasing power parity): $1,800 (note: figure heavily depends on the population and does not account for the gray economy).
Inflation rate (2001 est.): 5.0%.
Natural resources: Coal, iron, bauxite, manganese, forests, copper, chromium, lead, zinc.
Agriculture: Products--wheat, corn, fruits, vegetables, livestock.
Industry: Types--steel, minerals, vehicle assembly, textiles, tobacco products, wooden furniture, tank and aircraft assembly, domestic appliances, oil refining.
Trade (1995): Exports--$1,003 million.

The three main ethnic groups in present-day Bosnia and Herzegovina are Bosniak, Serb, and Croat, and languages are Bosnian, Serbian, and Croatian (formerly "Serbo-Croatian"). Nationalities are Bosniak (Muslim), Bosnian Serb, and Bosnian Croat. Religions include Islam, Serb Orthodoxy, Roman Catholicism, Judaism, some Protestant sects, and some others.

For the first centuries of the Christian era, Bosnia was part of the Roman Empire. After the fall of Rome, Bosnia was contested by Byzantium and Rome's successors in the west. Slavs settled the region in the 7th century, and the kingdoms of Serbia and Croatia split control of Bosnia in the 9th century. The 11th and 12th centuries saw the rule of the region by the kingdom of Hungary. The medieval kingdom of Bosnia gained its independence around 1200 A.D. Bosnia remained independent until 1463, when Ottoman Turks conquered the region.

During Ottoman rule, many Bosnians converted from Christianity in favor of Islam. Bosnia was under Ottoman rule until 1878, when it was given to Austria-Hungary as a colony. While those living in Bosnia came under rule by the Austrian-Hungarian Empire, South Slavs in Serbia and elsewhere were calling for a South Slav state. World War I began when Serb nationalist Gavrilo Princip assassinated the Archduke Ferdinand in Sarajevo. Following the Great War, Bosnia became part of the South Slav state of Yugoslavia, only to be given to Nazi-puppet Croatia in World War II. During this period, many atrocities were committed against Jews, Serbs, and others who resisted the occupation. The Cold War saw the establishment of the Communist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia under Josip Broz Tito, and the reestablishment of Bosnia as a republic with its medieval borders within the federation of Yugoslavia.

Yugoslavia's unraveling was hastened by the rise of Slobodan Milosevic to power in 1986. Milosevic's embrace of Serb nationalism led to intrastate ethnic strife. Slovenia and Croatia both declared independence from Yugoslavia  in 1991. In February 1992, the Bosnian Government held a referendum on independence. Bosnia's parliament declared the republic's independence on April 5, 1992. However, this move was opposed by Serb representatives who favored remaining in Yugoslavia. Bosnian Serbs, supported by neighboring Serbia, responded with armed resistance in an effort to partition the republic along ethnic lines to create a "greater Serbia." Full recognition of its independence by the United States and most European countries occurred on April 7, and Bosnia-Herzegovina was admitted to the United Nations on May 22, 1992.

In March 1994, Muslims and Croats in Bosnia signed an agreement creating the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. This narrowed the field of warring parties down to two. The conflict continued through most of 1995, ending with the Dayton Peace Agreement being signed on November 21, 1995 (the final version was signed December 14, 1995 in Paris). Bosnia and Herzegovina today consists of two entities -- the Muslim/Croat Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, which is largely Bosniak and Croat, and the Republika Srpska, which is primarily Serb.


General Government Framework Information and
Information Regarding the President and the Cabinet

Under the provisions of the Dayton Peace Accords, the entities have competencies in areas such as finance, taxation, business development, and general legislation. Entities and cantons control their own budgets, spending on infrastructure, health care, and education. Ongoing reforms have led to the creation of a state-level Indirect Taxation Authority (ITA) that will be responsible for the introduction and implementation of a state-wide value-added tax (VAT) in 2006, revenues from which will fund the governments of the state of Bosnia and Herzegovina as well as the two entities.  Customs, which had been collected by agencies of the two entities, will now be collected by a new single state customs service.

Presidency. The Presidency in Bosnia and Herzegovina rotates among three members (Bosniak, Serb, Croat), each elected for a 4-year term. The three members of the Presidency are directly elected (the Federation votes for the Bosniak/Croat, and the Republika Srpska for the Serb).

The Presidency is responsible for:

  • Conducting the foreign policy of Bosnia and Herzegovina;
  • Appointing ambassadors and other international representatives, no more than two-thirds of whom may come from the Federation;
  • Representing Bosnia and Herzegovina in European and international organizations and institutions and seeking membership in such organizations and institutions of which it is not a member;
  • Negotiating, denouncing, and, with the consent of the Parliamentary Assembly, ratifying treaties of Bosnia and Herzegovina;
  • Executing decisions of the Parliamentary Assembly;
  • Proposing, upon the recommendation of the Council of Ministers, an annual budget to the Parliamentary Assembly;
  • Reporting as requested, but no less than annually, to the Parliamentary Assembly on expenditures by the Presidency;
  • Coordinating as necessary with international and non-governmental organizations in Bosnia and Herzegovina;
  • Exercising command and control over the Armed Forces of Bosnia and Herzegovina in peacetime, crises, and war, and;
  • Performing such other functions as may be necessary to carry out its duties, as may be assigned to it by the Parliamentary Assembly, or as may be agreed by the Entities.

The Chair of the Council of Ministers is nominated by the Presidency and approved by the House of Representatives. He is then responsible for appointing a Foreign Minister, Minister of Defense, Minister of Foreign Trade, and others as appropriate. The Council is responsible for carrying out the policies and decisions in the fields of defense, intelligence, foreign policy; foreign trade policy; customs policy; monetary policy; finances of the institutions and for the international obligations of Bosnia and Herzegovina; immigration, refugee, and asylum policy and regulation; international and inter-Entity criminal law enforcement, including relations with Interpol; establishment and operation of common and international communications facilities; regulation of inter-Entity transportation; air traffic control; facilitation of inter-Entity coordination; and other matters as agreed by the Entities.

Legislature. The Parliamentary Assembly is the lawmaking body in Bosnia and Herzegovina. It consists of two houses: the House of Peoples and the House of Representatives.

The House of Peoples includes 15 delegates, two-thirds of whom come from the Federation (5 Croat and 5 Bosniacs) and one-third from the Republika Srpska (5 Serbs). Nine members of the House of Peoples constitutes a quorum, provided that at least three delegates from each group are present. Federation representatives are selected by the House of Peoples of the Federation, and Republika Srpska representatives are selected by the Republika Srpska  National Assembly.

The House of Representatives is comprised of 42 members, two-thirds elected from the Federation and one-third elected from the Republika Srpska. Federation representatives are elected directly by the voters of the Federation, and Republika Srpska representatives are selected by the Republika Srpska National Assembly (the National Assembly is directly elected by Republika Srpska voters).

The Parliamentary Assembly is responsible for enacting legislation as necessary to implement decisions of the Presidency or to carry out the responsibilities of the Assembly under the constitution; deciding upon the sources and amounts of revenues for the operations of the institutions of Bosnia and Herzegovina and international obligations of Bosnia and Herzegovina; approving a budget for the institutions of Bosnia and Herzegovina; and deciding whether to consent to the ratification of treaties.

Judiciary. The Constitutional Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina is the supreme, final arbiter of legal matters. It is composed of nine members: four are selected by the House of Representatives of the Federation, two by the Assembly of the Republika Srpska, and three by the President of the European Court of Human Rights after consultation with the Presidency. The Constitutional Court's original jurisdiction lies in deciding any constitutional dispute that arises between the Entities or between Bosnia and Herzegovina and an Entity or Entities. The Court also has appellate jurisdiction within the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Both the Federation and the Republika Srpska government have established lower court systems for their territories.

Principal Government Officials

State Level
Tri-Presidency--Borislav Paravac (Bosnian Serb and current Chairman), Dragan Covic (Bosnian Croat), Sulejman Tihic (Bosniak)
Chairman of the Council of Ministers--Adnan Terzic

Council of Ministers
Foreign Affairs--Mladen Ivanic
Deputy--Lidija Topic
Defense—Nikola Radovanovic
Deputy—Enes Beserbasic
Deputy—Marina Pendes
Foreign Trade and Economic Relations--Dragan Doko
Deputy--Slobodan Acimovic (proposed, but not yet confirmed) 
Treasury--Ljerka Maric
Deputy--Jusuf Kumalic
Civil Works and Communications--Safet Halilovic
Deputy--Zoran Tesanovic
Human Right and Refugees--Mirsad Kebo
Deputy--Ivica Marinovic
Security--Barisa Colak
Deputy--Dragan Mektic
Justice--Slobodan Kovac
Deputy--Niko Grubisic
Transport and Communications--Branko Dokic
Deputy--Haris Basic

BIH Parliament--House of Representatives
Speaker--Martin Raguz (Bosnian Croat)
Deputy Speaker--Nikola Spiric (Bosnian Serb)
Deputy Speaker--Sefik Dzaferovic (Bosniak)

BIH Parliament--House of Peoples
Speaker--Goran Milojevic (Serb)
Deputy Speaker--Mustafa Pamuk (Bosniak)
Deputy Speaker--Velimir Jukic (Croat)

President--Niko Lozancic (Croat)
Vice President--Sahbaz Dzihanovic (Bosniak)
Vice President--Desnica Radivojevic (Serb)
Prime Minister--Ahmet Hadzipasic
Deputy Prime Minister--Dragan Vrankic
Deputy Prime Minister--Gavrilo Grahovac

Federation Government
Agriculture, Water Management and Forestry--Marinko Bozic
Defense--Miroslav Nikolic
Development and Entrepreneurship--Mladen Cabrilo
Education, Science, Culture, and Sports--Gavrilo Grahovac (also Deputy Prime Minister)
Energy, Mining, and Industry--Izet Zigic
Finance--Dragan Vrankic (also Deputy Prime Minister)
Health--Tomo Lucic
Interior--Mevludin Halilovic
Justice--Borjana Kristo
Refugees and Displaced Persons--Edin Music
Social Welfare and Labor--Radovan Vignjevic
Trade--Maid Ljubovic
Transport and Communications--Nedzad Brankovic
Urban Planning and Environmental Protection--Ramiz Mehmedagic
War Veteran Affairs--Ibrahim Nadarevic

Federation Parliament--House of Representatives (42 members)
Speaker--Muhamed Ibrahimovic (Bosniak)
Deputy Speaker--Josip Merdzo (Croat)
Deputy Speaker--Dusanka Pecanac (Serb)

Federation Parliament--House of Peoples (15 Members)
Speaker--Slavko Matic (Croat)
Deputy Speaker--Vahid Heco (Bosniak)
Deputy Speaker--Spomenka Micic (Serb)

Republika Srpska
President--Dragan Cavic (Serb)
Vice President--Adil Osmanovic (Bosniak)
Vice President-- Ivan Tomljenovic (Croat)
Prime Minister--Dragan Mikerevic

National Assembly (83 members)
Speaker--Dusan Stojcic
Deputy Speaker--Sefket Hafizovic
Deputy Speaker—Tomislav Tomljanovic

Governance and Local Self-Governance--Slaven Pekic
Defense--Milovan Stankovic
Education and Culture--Gojko Savanovic
Economy, Energy and Development--Djordje Lajsic
Foreign Economic Relations--Omer Brankovic
Finance--Branko Krsmanovic
Health and Social Policy--Marin Kvaternik
Interior--Zoran Djeric
Justice--Saud Filipovic
Refugee Affairs--Jasmin Samardzic
Science and Technology--Dzemal Kolonic
Trade and Tourism--Boris Gaspar
Transport and Communications--Dragan Solaja
Urban Planning, Utilities, Environment--Hrusto Tupekovic
Labor and War Veterans Issues--Mico Micic
Water Resources and Forestry (Agriculture)--Rodoljub Trkulja

Bosnia and Herzegovina maintains an embassy in the United States at 2109 E Street NW, Washington, DC 20037 (tel.: 202-337-1500; fax: 202-337-1502).

Next to Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina was the poorest republic in the old Yugoslav Federation. For the most part, agriculture has been in private hands, but farms have been small and inefficient, and food has traditionally been a net import for the country. The centrally planned economy has resulted in some legacies in the economy. Industry is greatly overstaffed, reflecting the rigidity of the planned economy. Under Tito, military industries were pushed in the republic; Bosnia hosted a large share of Yugoslavia's defense plants. Three years of interethnic strife destroyed the economy and infrastructure in Bosnia, caused the death of about 200,000 people, and displaced half of the population.

However, considerable progress has been made since peace was reestablished. Due to Bosnia and Herzegovina's strict currency board regime, inflation has remained low in the Federation and Republika Srpska. However, growth has been uneven, with the Federation outpacing the Republika Srpska. Bosnia and Herzegovina's most immediate task remains economic revitalization. In order to do this fully, the environment must be conducive to a private sector, market-led economy. Bosnia and Herzegovina faces a dual challenge: not only must the nation recover from the war, but it also must make the transition from socialism to capitalism.

U.S. and other international foreign assistance accounts for 20%-25% of economic growth in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Movement has been slow, but progress has been made in economic reform. A Central Bank was established in late 1997, successful debt negotiations were held with the London Club in December 1997 and with the Paris Club in October 1998, and a new currency linked to the Deutchmark was introduced in mid-1998, and has remained stable.

The implementation of the Dayton Accords of 1995 has focused the efforts of policymakers in Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as the international community, on regional stabilization in the former Yugoslavia. However, with the efforts to bring peace in Kosovo and Macedonia, donor resources for Bosnia and Herzegovina have diminished. Bosnia and Herzegovina's relations with its neighbors Croatia, Albania, and Serbia have been fairly stable since the signing of Dayton in 1995. The U.S. role in the Dayton Accords and their implementation has been key to successes in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Since the Dayton Accords were signed, over $14 billion in foreign aid has moved into Bosnia and Herzegovina, approximately $940 million of it coming from SEED funds. As stated above, this support has been key to the growth and revitalization of the economy and infrastructure in the republic. In addition to SEED funding, U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) programs have been crucial to the redevelopment of Bosnia and Herzegovina. USAID has programming in the following areas: economic policy reform and restructuring; private sector development (the Business Development Program); infrastructure rebuilding; democratic reforms in the media, political process and elections, and rule of law/legal code formulation; and training programs for women and diplomats.

The 1992-95 war in Bosnia and Herzegovina was ended with the crucial participation of the United States in brokering the 1995 Dayton Accords. After leading the diplomatic and military effort to secure the Dayton agreement, the United States has continued to lead the effort to ensure its implementation. U.S. troops participate in the Bosnia Peacekeeping force (SFOR), and the United States has donated hundreds of millions of dollars to help with reconstruction, humanitarian assistance, economic development, and military reconstruction in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has played a large role in post-war Bosnia and Herzegovina, including programs in economic development and reform, democratic reform (media, elections), infrastructure development, and training programs for Bosnian professionals, among others. Additionally, there are many non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that have likewise played significant roles in the reconstruction.

Principal U.S. Embassy Officials
Ambassador--Douglas McElhaney
Deputy Chief of Mission--Tina Kaidanow
Political Counselor--Barbara Leaf
Economic Counselor--Chever Voltmer
Consular Counselor--Kirk Smith
Management Officer--David Ball
Public Affairs Officer--Gerald McLoughlin
USAID--Howard Sumka

The U.S. Embassy in Bosnia and Herzegovina is at Alipa�ina 43, 71000 Sarajevo (tel.: 387-33-445-700; fax: 387-33-659-722).

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