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Diplomacy in Action

Bosnia and Herzegovina (08/05)


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. 


Bosnia and Herzegovina

Area: 51,129 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 2004 est.): 4,007,608 (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 (2004 est.): 0.45%.
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, 7 universities in the major cities (Sarajevo, Mostar, Banja Luka, Tuzla, Bihac, and Foca) and 6 academies (4 pedagogic and 2 art academies).
Education: Adult literacy rate--male 94.1%, female 78.0%.
Health: Infant mortality rate--(2005 est.) 21.05 deaths/1,000 live births. Life expectancy (2005 est.)--male 70.09, female 75.8.
Work force (2001 est.): 1.026 million. 

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: Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (divided into 10 cantons) and Republika Srpska.  In accordance with Annex 2, Article V, of the Dayton Peace Agreement that left the unresolved status of Brcko subject to binding international arbitration, an Arbitration Tribunal was formed in mid-1996.  On March 5, 1999, the Tribunal issued its Final Award.  The Final Award established a special District for the entire pre-war Brcko Opstina, under the exclusive sovereignty of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The territory of the District belongs simultaneously to both Entities, the Republika Srpska and the Federation, in condominium. Therefore, the territories of the two Entities overlap in the Brcko District. In accordance with the Final Award, the District is self-governing and has a single, unitary, multiethnic, democratic Government; a unified and multiethnic police force operating under a single command structure and an independent judiciary. The District Government exercises, throughout the pre-war Brcko Opstina, those powers previously exercised by the two Entities and the former three municipal governments. The Brcko district is demilitarized.
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); Alliance of Independent Social Democrats (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); Social Democrats of Bosnia Herzegovina; Party for Democratic Progress (PDP); National Democratic Union (DNZ); Democratic Peoples' Alliance (DNS); Coalition for a United and Democratic BiH (coalition of SDA, SBiH, LS, and GDS).
Suffrage: Universal at age 18.

GDP (2004 est., purchasing power parity): $26.21 billion.
GDP real growth rate (2004 est.): 5.0%.
Income per capita (2004 est., purchasing power parity): $6,500 (note: figure heavily depends on the population and does not account for the gray economy).
Inflation rate (2004 est.): 1.1%.
Natural resources: Hydropower, coal, iron ore, bauxite, manganese, forests, copper, chromium, lead, zinc, cobalt, nickel, clay, gypsum, salt, sand, forests.
Agriculture: Products--wheat, corn, fruits, vegetables, livestock.
Industry: Types--steel, minerals, vehicle assembly, textiles, tobacco products, wooden furniture, explosives, munitions, aircraft repair, domestic appliances, oil refining.
Trade (2004): Exports--$1.7 billion f.o.b.

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 the rule of the Austro-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 Franz 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 force in an effort to partition the republic along ethnic lines to create a "greater Serbia." Full recognition of Bosnia and Herzegovina's  independence by the United States and most European countries occurred on April 7, and Bosnia and 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, signed on November 21, 1995 (the final version was signed December 14, 1995 in Paris). Bosnia and Herzegovina today consists of two entities -- the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, which is largely Bosniak and Croat, and the Republika Srpska, which is primarily Serb.  In July 2000, the Constitutional Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina rendered a decision whereby Bosniaks, Croats, and Serbs are recognized as constituent people throughout the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina.   In March 2002, this decision was formally recognized and agreed by the major political parties in both Entities.


The most recent national elections took place in October 2002, electing new state presidency members, entity governments, and State, Entity and cantonal parliaments. The three main nationalist parties (SDA, HDZ and SDS, obtained the most votes among their respective ethnic groups and have, together with coalition members, formed governments at both the State and Entity levels. The next national elections are scheduled for October 2006.  Bosnia and Herzegovina introduced the direct election of mayors at regional and municipal elections held in October 2004.


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.  Draft defense legislation is under consideration by the state and entity parliaments that would create a single, multi-ethnic military under state-level command and control and eliminate the previous entity-based institutions.

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 Croats and 5 Bosniaks) 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 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--Ivo Miro Jovic (Bosnian Croat and current Chairman), Borislav Paravac (Bosnian Serb), Sulejman Tihic (Bosniak)
Chairman of the Council of Ministers--Adnan Terzic

Council of Ministers
Foreign Affairs--Mladen Ivanic
Deputy--Anton Rill
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-- Nikola Spiric (Bosnian Serb)
Deputy Speaker--Martin Raguz (Bosnian Croat)
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--Zahid Crnkic (nominated, pending confirmation)

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--Pero Bukejlovic


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


Governance and Local Self-Governance--
Zdenka Abazagic
Defense--Milovan Stankovic
Education and Culture--Milovan Pecelj
Economy, Energy and Development--Miladin Gligoric
Foreign Economic Relations--Jasmin Seferovic
Finance--Svetlana Cenic
Health and Social Policy--Ivo Komljenovic
Darko Matijasevic
Dzerard Salman
Refugee Affairs--Jasmin Samardzic
Science and Technology--Fuad Turalic
Trade and Tourism--Boris Gaspar
Transport and Communications--Dragoje Lajic
Urban Planning, Utilities, Environment--Muhamed Lisic
Labor and War Veterans Issues--Miodrag Deretic
Water Resources and Forestry (Agriculture)--Goran Perkovic

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.  Industry still is greatly overstaffed, reflecting the legacy of the centrally-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.

Considerable progress has been made since peace was reestablished. Due to Bosnia and Herzegovina's strict currency board regime, which links the Konvertibilna Marka (BAM) to the Euro, inflation has remained low. 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. Privatization has been slow, and unemployment remains high.  Restructuring of BiH's domestic debt (estimated at over 2000% of GDP) is imperative.  Bosnia and Herzegovina also faces the challenge of implementing a significantly new tax reform, by introduction of a Value-Added Tax (VAT) in 2006.


BiH's top economic priorities are: acceleration of EU integration by concluding a Stabilization and Association Agreement (SAA); strengthening the fiscal system; public administration reform; World Trade Organization (WTO) membership; and securing economic growth by fostering a dynamic, competitive private sector.  To date, work on these priorities has been inconsistent and not in line with milestones.  The country has received a substantial amount of foreign assistance but must prepare for declining assistance flows in the future. 

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.

Bosnia and Herzegovina  is a member of the United Nations (1992); International Monetary Fund (IMF) (1992), World Bank (1995), Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) (1992); and the Council of Europe (2002).  It also participates in regional cooperation through the Stability Pact, Central-European Initiative (CEI), Southeast Europe Co-operation Initiative (SECI), Southeast Europe Co-operation Process (SEECP), Adriatic-Ionic Initiative (AII) and others.

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--Dorothy Sarro
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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