Bosnia and Herzegovina

Developments in Bosnia and Herzegovina

Updated: 5 October 2015

The Dayton Peace Treaty in 1995 ended the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina. It also gave Bosnia a very complicated constitution with a weak state, delaying necessary reforms.

Today's Bosnia-Herzegovina emerged in 1991 from the rubble of the disintegrated Yugoslavia and did almost immediately fell apart in the devastating civil war. When the war ended in Bosnia became an internationally supervised nation divided into two parts. Still, many years after the Dayton Agreement in 1995, the internal divisions remains large and the ethnic tension continues to affect the country.

The war in Bosnia killed an estimated 100 000 people, a majority of them were Bosniaks and around half civilians. About 10 000 people are still reported missing 20 years after the outbreak of the war.

The war led to half of the population - two million people - fled to other countries, or became Internally Displaces Persons (IDP’s) in Bosnia. 2012, there were still about 100,000 IDP’s in the country.

Bosnia-Herzegovina is today an ethnically segregated country. Most Serbs live in Republika Srpska, while Croats and Bosniaks dominate separate parts of the Federation. But there are people who are want to change the current situation. In February 2015, a nine-month boy in Sarajevo became the first citizen of the independent Bosnia-Herzegovina to be registered as "Bosnian". In a protest against the ethnic division, his parents refused to have him register as either "Bosniak", "Serb", "Croat" or "other".

Business and Economy

Before the war, Bosnia-Herzegovina had a relative developed industry, based on mining, manufacturing industry and forestry. Fifty per cent of Bosnia's industrial capacity was destroyed during the war (1992-1995) and it has not been redeveloped since then. However, between 2000 and 2008 the growth was on an average five to six per cent. Despite this the country's GDP is still below pre-war level and represent a third of the average for EU countries (per capita).

The unemployment rate is extremely high. The official figure is above 40 per cent, for young people about 60 per cent. Bosnia is one of Europe's poorest countries and about one Bosnians out of five are estimated to live below the poverty line. For children the figure is one in four.

For many Bosnians, remittances from family members living abroad, constitutes an important part of the household income for many families. Remittances are estimated to represent about a fifth of the country's GDP.

In 2014, large demonstrations where held in the country against the government. The protests, that had no ethnic undertones, focused on unpaid wages and pensions, expressing anger on the politicians' inability to solve the economic situation and reduce the unemployment rate. Many had hope for a "Bosnian spring" but the protest movement did not result in any major political changes.

EU membership status

In 2003, EU identified Bosnia-Herzegovina as a potential membership candidate. Since then, a number of agreements between the EU and Bosnia and Herzegovina have entered into force. The Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) was signed in 2008 and entered into force on 1 June 2015.

Many Bosnians are also in favour of a NATO membership. In 2010 NATO decided on an action plan outlining the conditions for future membership of Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Complicated structure

One of the major problems in Bosnia-Herzegovina is the complex administrative structure, which is a result of the Dayton Agreement. The central administration is weak with many administrative levels and there is great confusion as on who is responsible for what. This is further complicated by the fact that the country is a state with two autonomous parts: the Serb-dominated Republika Srpska and the Bosniak-Croat Federation of Bosnia-Herzegovina.

At the national level The Chair of the Presidency of the country rotates amongst three members (a Bosniak, a Serb and a Croat).

Bosnia is to a large extent governed by the "High Representative" that was set up under the Dayton Agreement to coordinate the reconstruction. The High Representative is the highest political authority in the country and the representative has extensive powers to issue and withdraw laws as well as to remove officials and politicians considered to hinder the peace process.


Page owner: Department for Europe and Latin America

  • tip a friend
  • share
Tip a Friend heading