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Key Economic Data 
  2003 2002 2001 Ranking(2003)
Millions of US $ 6,963 5,249 4,800 104
GNI per capita
 US $ 1,540 1,270 1,240 123
Ranking is given out of 208 nations - (data from the World Bank)

Books on Bosnia & Herzegovina

Update No: 127 - (19/12/07)

The knock-on effect
Events in Serbia, or to be more explicit, Kosovo, could have profound repercussions for Bosnia. If, as now looks inevitable, the Albanian Kosovars go independent from Belgrade, the Bosnian Serbs could insist that they should secede from Bosnia, leaving a rump Croatian-Muslim republic behind. We have been warning of this continually and the situation is exacerbated by Russia’s posturte which is making heavier and heavier hints that if Kosovo declares unilateral independence so also may its puppet enclaves unrecognised republics – two in Georgia and one in Moldova. Plus the Republika Srbska who are desperate to join Serbia.

This unilateral declaration of independence is more than a possibility; it is a probability, unless the international community acts decisively. The omens augur a dismemberment of the Bosnian confederation soon, unless there is outside intervention. The current International High Representative, Miroslav Lajcak, is a Slovak, coming from a state, Slovakia, that seceded itself in 1993 from the Czechs in Czechoslovakia, although this was a negotiated outcome. Who is he to argue that geopolitical boundaries are fixed forever and are immutable - although he would more likely point to the Dayton agreements and the rule of law.

A mounting crisis
Political tensions had been simmering at least since the pre-election campaign in 2006. They reached a climax with the October failure to find agreement on police reform - the Bosnian Serbs just won’t have a Bosnian national police force which they don’t control. This is a major irritant in both internal and external relations, indeed a blockage to nationhood, and with Lajcak's subsequent decision to unilaterally introduce changes to decision-making procedures at state level. Politicians from Republika Srbska were united in rejecting Lajcak’s moves on the grounds that they would allow the Serbs to be outvoted by the other two constituencies in Bosnia’s ethnic triad. The Serb entity’s Prime Minister Milorad Dodik warned that his party would encourage withdrawals from executive and legislative positions at state level unless Lajcak’s decisions were modified. The subsequent standoff between the Bosnian Serbs and Lajcak raised tensions tangibly.

Fear seemed to be taking root at an alarming pace, and people were reported to be hoarding food supplies. On 13 November, Social Democratic Party leader Zlatko Lagumdzija declared in the Bosnian parliament, “People are afraid of going back to 1992. Parliament should tell them that there is no reason, that there will not be a war here ever again. … The result of all this is that whether there will be a war has become a natural question.”

Zdravko Grebo, a prominent intellectual at Sarajevo University, confided to the media that Bosnia “is counting its last days.” International diplomats’ repeated denials of any link between Kosovo and Bosnia failed to reassure or convince. On 16 November, Dodik reportedly said, “The independence of Kosovo is surely going to influence the establishing of a new public opinion in Republika Srpska, and nobody is going to be able to stop this. … It is impossible for Serbia to give up one part of its territory just like that, without any.… not to say, concessions.”

The EU steps in
All of this made the Europeans sit up. They know that they made a terrible mistake in the early 1990s by letting events take their course in the Balkans, which meant wars galore. The EU and its various capitals have, indeed, been active of late. A strong improvement across Bosnia and Herzegovina took place in the first week of December. The Bosnian political elites and the international community’s high representative called off the political crisis that had only weeks before re-kindled fears of a new violent conflict. The ice began to crack on 30 November when the Bosnian parliament adopted new rules of procedure as required by High Representative Lajcak. On 3 December Lajcak gave in to some Bosnian Serb demands to modify his own October amendments to the law on Bosnia’s central government.

To top off this string of better news, the European Union’s enlargement commissioner, Olli Rehn, went to Sarajevo on 4 December to initial the document that clears the way for Bosnia’s closer integration into the union, even though there had been scant progress in areas where the EU had previously insisted on Bosnia’s bending to its will. All of a sudden, talk of war was replaced by talk of EU membership. But, the outcome of Kosovo will emerge very soon, when all the cards will lie face up on the table.

A breathing space
There is a short space of time for any opportunity to change the antagonistic political dynamic in Bosnia. However, unless domestic authorities and Bosnia’s international overseers alike learn lessons, new crises are bound to reappear, perhaps quite soon. Kosovo is steering ever closer to a unilateral declaration of independence, and despite their assertions to the contrary, Western states’ recognition of that act is bound to put additional long-term strains on the tenuous territorial integrity of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

It will require great statesmanship to prevent a debacle. One elder statesman, whose advice would be invaluable here is Lord Ashdown, a former International High Representive himself. Another is Richard Holbrooke, the author of the Dayton Agreement in 1995. Yet a third would be former Russian premier, Viktor Chernomyrdin, who brokered the peace in 1999. The UK, the US and the USSR, the big three that won the Second World War, could bequeath a victory of another sort in Bosnia, should there be a troika of the three of them to advise Lojcak. 

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