FREE GEOPOLITICAL NEWSLETTER

For current reports go to EASY FINDER

BOSNIA AND
HERZEGOVINA

 
  
  

 

Key Economic Data 
 
  2003 2002 2001 Ranking(2003)
GDP
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: 183 - (26/10/13)

The past months have seen Bosnia fail to make progress on certain key issues which have stalled its attempts to progress on the path towards EU integration. The legacy of the Dayton Agreements, which created a settlement riven along the ethnic fault lines of this part of the former Yugoslavia, is evident in the problems the nation now encounters when attempting to make unifying political decisions which are necessary if the country is to achieve its hope of EU accession. A recent census has returned the focus to the ethnic make-up of the country in a way that some fear might be negative and reductive. Potentially it may also reignite divisions. Financial problems such as high unemployment also continue to blight the state.

The recent census, the first since 1991 in the former Yugoslavia, has highlighted some of the ongoing issues relating to ethnic identity in the nation. Ending on October 15, the 15-day operation has drawn attention to potential divisions. Leaders from different communities have incited their communities to state their religions, trawling up some of the chauvinistic ethnic rhetoric familiar to the political demarche of the 90s. “If there are more than 50% of us Bosnia will be a national state of Bosniaks and we will dominate the other two peoples,” said Sejfudin Tokic, a Bosniak leader who has made efforts to mobilise Bosniak sentiment. "You should know that the issue of our identity is the issue of our survival!" a well-known Bosnian Muslim intellectual, Muhamed Filipovic told people in Sarajevo, urging them to participate in the census. The Roman Catholic archbishop in Bosnia, Cardinal Vinko Puljik, also said it was the “moral duty” of all Catholics to declare themselves as such in the census.

There are others who are encouraging Bosnian citizens to reject the labels and identify themselves as "others" in order to repudiate the ethnic divisions sealed into the constitutional settlement. This is the case of Darko Brkan, the head of a coalition of associations for young Bosnians called Jednakost (Equality), who wishes to see the population reject these labels in order to change the political system as a whole. Particularly problematic, some say, is the term Muslim for a Muslim population which may more readily identify as Muslim, Bosniak and even just "Bosnian". This really reveals how difficult it is for people to ascribe themselves one identity when they may simultaneously enjoy many. The category "Bosnian" is an option for those who wish to avoid identification of a particular sort, but vested interests are fearful this will reduce the power of their ethnic group. The “other” movement has unsurprisingly received considerable resistance from elite groups who seek to preserve the status quo.

It is largely at the insistence of the EU that the census has been undertaken. The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) had ruled Bosnia's constitution discriminatory on the basis that whilst ensuring enfranchisement for the three principal religious groups, it excludes certain minorities from election. It has come to be known as the Sejdic-Finci question after the two people, one man of Roma descent and one of Jewish, who took Bosnia to the ECHR for discrimination on this basis and won. Jews, Roma people and those who belong to mixed marriages are among the groups who are unrepresented in the current political settlement. They may represent up to 20% of the population, some estimates indicate. As a result of this the ECHR barred Bosnia from formally applying for membership in the European Union. It is unclear what the census would do to remedy this, except potentially influence the way in which quotas are established.

On October 16th, a report was issued by the European Commission which suggested that far too little had been done to remedy the situation of political representation for minorities. The state was chastised for a political impasse. In the European Commission’s draft report it said that Bosnia "is at a standstill in the European integration process while other countries in the region are moving ahead." The report was indeed tougher on Bosnia than any of its EU-aspiring neighbours, criticizing the “very limited progress” on democracy, law and creating a market economy. A failure of the country's leaders to reach a shared vision for the future of the country was another complaint. This point was reiterated in the last week of October by the Foreign Affairs Council of Europe. In the first week of October leaders from the five major Croat and Bosniak political parties in Bosnia and Herzegovina had failed to reach an agreement on how to settle the minority issue and the need for a single mechanism in order to enter the EU. Talks between Stefan Fule and the country's leaders ended with a negative assessment on the part of the EU enlargement commissioner, who said that the efforts of the state were insufficient. “The European Commission regrets that Bosnia and Herzegovina is rejecting the well-established methodology of adapting the Stabilisation and Association Agreement/Interim Agreement (SAA/IA) protocol," were the words of the diplomat.

In turn this has brought worrying news for the state with the highest unemployment rate in Europe; the union will initiate legal proceedings to slash Bosnia's pre-accession funding by €47 million in 2013. At more than half, this will have a severe impact on the nation’s budget. Other economic woes continue to blight the horizon. At the end of October Bosnia's only aluminium smelter Aluminij Mostar was saved from closure thanks to a last minute deal to settle its debt to state-run power company EPHZHB. The smelter employs 900 people directly in Mostar and thousand more indirectly. At the end of September, public transport came to to a halt on Monday when EPBiH cut electricity supplies to the capital's public transport company GRAS over unpaid bills. GRAS amongst other public companies in Bosnia has been in trouble for many years. The victims of the transport problems were the city's 400,000 citizens of Sarajevo, who had to find alternative transportation, causing chaos. In Bosnia, 1.5% of the country's economic output this year will be spent on subsidies, some part of which will be used to keep Aluminij Mostar, from the brink of closure. Additionally, a recent Real Estate Report for the fourth quarter of the year stated that, “Bosnia & Herzegovina's political and economic backdrop continues to stymie growth in both the construction and real estate segments”. The economy is buoyed to a large extent by remittances from Bosnians abroad. It was recently reported that remittances to Bosnia account for three times as much money as the amount the country receives from the EU, the UN and other fonts of aid. The brain drain is apparently particularly worrisome, according to a spokesperson from Ministry of human rights and refugees at the Council of Ministers of Bosnia and Herzegovina who commented.

The troubles of the 1990s remain a permanent part of the country’s backdrop. The exhumation of a mass grave, believed to contain the bodies of up to 1000 people, in October, has rekindled painful memories of the war. Lejla Cengic, spokeswoman for the Missing Persons Institute, said the site at Tomasica could prove the largest single mass grave in the ex-Yugoslav republic. Additionally, it was recently ruled that the Netherlands must pay compensation for the deaths of Bosnian Muslims in the 1995 Srebrenica massacre in a ruling that opens up the Dutch state to compensation claims from relatives of the rest of the 8,000 men and youths who died. Whilst this might be of some comfort to the relatives, it highlights how many issues from the period remain unresolved. In contrast to the resurrection of these painful memories, there has been jubilation at the news that Bosnia has managed to win a place in the World Cup, the first time that the country, a nation of football lovers, has managed to do so. The symbolism did not go unnoticed by European Union enlargement chief Stefan Fule who commented, “My message today to Bosnian politicians is: follow the example of your footballers and live up to expectations of your citizens". Others were more sceptical. “Football cannot reconcile the citizens of Bosnia-Herzegovina, football cannot make them more tolerant because football was not an issue. Politicians are those who must do it," Srdjan Puhalo, a psychologist from Banja Luka, told Reuters. The citizens of this troubled state have for too long been held hostage by the conflicts of the ruling elite.
 

 

« Top

« Back

 


 
Published by 
Newnations (a not-for-profit company)
PO Box 12 Monmouth 
United Kingdom NP25 3UW 
Fax: UK +44 (0)1600 890774
enquiries@newnations.com