Country profile: Bosnia-Hercegovina(bbcnews)

Country profile: Bosnia-Hercegovina

Map of Bosnia-Hercegovina

Bosnia-Hercegovina is recovering from a devastating three-year war which accompanied the break-up of Yugoslavia in the early 1990s.

The 1992-1995 conflict centred on whether Bosnia should stay in the Yugoslav Federation, or whether it should become independent.

Overview

It is now an independent state, but under international administration. Its three main ethnic groups are Bosniaks (Bosnian Muslims), Croats and Serbs. The war left Bosnia’s infrastructure and economy in tatters. Around two million people – about half the population – were displaced.

International administration, backed at first by Nato forces and later by a smaller European Union-led peacekeeping force, has helped the country consolidate stability.

Mostar

Symbol of hope: Rebuilt bridge at Mostar

But early in 2007 the International Crisis Group, a think tank, warned: « Bosnia remains unready for unguided ownership of its own future – ethnic nationalism remains too strong. »

The 1995 Dayton peace accord, which ended the Bosnian war, set up two separate entities; a Bosniak-Croat Federation of Bosnia and Hercegovina, and the Bosnian Serb Republic, or Republika Srpska, each with its own president, government, parliament, police and other bodies.

Overarching these entities is a central Bosnian government and rotating presidency. In addition there exists the district of Brcko which is a self-governing administrative unit, established as a neutral area placed under joint Serb, Croat and Bosniak authority.

Dayton also established the Office of the High Representative. The Office’s representative is the state’s ultimate authority, responsible for implementation of Dayton and with the power to  »compel the entity governments to comply with the terms of the peace agreement and the state constitution ».

Critics of Dayton said the two entities came too close to being states in their own right and that the arrangement reinforced separatism and nationalism at the expense of integration. Negotiations to amend the existing constitution, established by Dayton, in order to centralise functions and transform the country into a non-ethnic parliamentary democracy, are ongoing.

Underlining how far the country had progressed since Dayton, EU foreign ministers gave the go-ahead in late 2005 for talks on a Stabilisation and Association Agreement, the start of Bosnia’s long journey towards possible EU membership.

The prospect of talks with the EU was a factor likely to increase pressure for the capture of two key Bosnian Serb war crimes suspects, Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic.

After nearly 13 years on the run, Radovan Karadzic was arrested in July 2008 by Serbian security forces in Belgrade.

There were celebrations on the streets of Sarajevo following news of his arrest. However, Serbs in Mr Karadzic’s wartime stronghold town of Pale expressed anger and disappointment at the development.

Facts

  • Full name: Bosnia and Hercegovina
  • Population: 4 million (UN, 2007)
  • Capital: Sarajevo
  • Area: 51,129 sq km (19,741 sq miles)
  • Major languages: Bosnian, Croatian and Serbian
  • Major religions: Christianity, Islam
  • Life expectancy: 72 years (men), 77 years (women) (UN)
  • Monetary unit: 1 convertible marka = 100 convertible pfenniga
  • Main exports: Wood and paper, metal products
  • GNI per capita: US $2,440 (World Bank, 2006)
  • Internet domain: .ba
  • International dialling code: +387

Leaders

President: The presidency rotates every eight months between a Serb, a Bosniak (Bosnian Muslim) and a Croat.

The responsibilities of the presidency lie largely in international affairs.

Prime minister: Nikola Spiric

Nikola Spiric, a Bosnian Serb, was first asked to form a government in January 2007 after the parties which gained the most votes in general elections in October agreed on a coalition.

Outgoing Bosnian PM Nikola Spiric

Nikola Spiric resigned after 10 months

He resigned in November 2007 in protest at efforts by the High Representative and EU Special Representative, Miroslav Lajcak, to introduce reforms supported by the EU. Mr Spiric said in his resignation speech that Bosnia has been run for too long by foreigners.

However, in December 2007 he secured the approval of Bosnia’s parliament to return as prime minister, promising to work on reforms that would bring Bosnia closer to membership of Nato and the European Union.

Media

The war in Bosnia-Hercegovina turned most media into propaganda tools in the hands of authorities, armies and factions. Since the 1995 Dayton Peace Accord efforts have been made – with limited success – to develop media which bridge inter-entity boundaries.

The most influential broadcasters in Bosnia are the public radio and TV stations operated by the Bosniak-Croat and Serb entities. The Office of the High Representative (OHR), the leading international civilian agency in Bosnia, is overseeing the development of a national public broadcasting service.

The OHR and other international organisations have encouraged the development of media which support a civic rather than a nationalist approach.

The media are partially free, but outlets and journalists come under pressure from state bodies and political party structures in both the Bosniak-Croat and Serb entities.

More than 200 commercial radio and TV stations are on the air, but their development has been hampered by a weak advertising market.

The press

Television

Radio

News agencies

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