Sunday

4th Dec 2022

Bosnia political divisions laid bare in census row

The population of Bosnia and Herzegovina has declined by 20 percent in the past 25 years, the biggest drop in Bosnia for more than a century, according to leaked data from the first census since the 1992-1995 war.

However, loss of overall population does not seem to worry the ruling elites. Instead, they fear that the results could influence the power-sharing government structure put in place by the peace accord at the end of the war.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

The current system divides power among Bosniaks, Croats and Serbs – leaving all the others who do not belong to one of the groups without political rights.

Government jobs and positions in institutions like the Central Bank have to be divided among these three ethnic groups. The current source of data used for the quotas is the 1991 census.

Any change in the ethnic make-up also means new quotas for all these institutions.

As a result, politicians have spent the past three years arguing about methodologies or trying to ensure that the census, which was carried out between 1-15 October 2013, is never published.

EU pressure

According to Bosnian law, the process will be considered invalid if the results are not published by 1 July.

The director of the state statistics agency, Velimir Jukic, made a unilateral decision in mid-June that the results would be published by the end of the month. But so far, the only data to reach the public has been in the form of leaks in local media.

State minister of the civil affairs Adil Osmanovic expressed his hope that the data would not be invalidated, saying: “If that happens, it will mean that we tossed €25 million, that was the cost of this census.”

Adding to the complication, Bosnia formally applied to join the European Union in February. EU officials made it clear that the census was one of the conditions for applying.

Jamila Milovic Halilovic at the EU office in Sarajevo stressed to the EUobserver that Bosnia had received “considerable financial and technical assistance from the EU” for the census, which she described as “essential for the country's economic and social planning”.

Pieter Everaers from the EU's statistical agency Eurostat believes timely publication of the census results "is crucial considering the relevance of the population figures for planning and policy purposes in Bosnia and Herzegovina".

In accordance with EU rules, headcounts should be conducted every 10 years.

Against this background, the two political entities that make up Bosnia have shown little willingness to compromise.

Politicians in Republika Srpska, where the population is mostly Serb, insist that people who are living abroad for work or education purposes should not be counted, even if they have a permanent address in Bosnia.

Analysts believe this methodology would discount many thousands of Bosniaks (Bosnian Muslims) and Croats from Republic Srpska.

The other political entity, the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, where most of the population is Bosniak (Bosnian Muslim) or Croat, opposes this methodology.

However, Republika Srpska politicians warned that if the results were published without their methodology, they would not be recognised and could lead to a boycott of state institutions.

'Political manipulation'

Darko Brkan, from the Zasto ne (Why not) organisation, which monitored the census, fears the final results will not be accurate.

“At the end, the entire process could be seen only as something that was done in order to fulfil the EU criteria,” he says.

“We will probably get very questionable results that have to be used with a great caution.”

Dalio Sijah, also from Zasto ne, believes everybody loses from the census dispute.

“The census issue was taken away from the professionals and became a matter of political disputes and different interests. Statistical agencies are now subject of political manipulation,” he said.

The last census was taken in 1991, a year before the war began. It found that 43.5 percent of the population declared themselves Bosniak, 31.2 percent Serb and 17.4 per cent Croat. The rest were bunched into the “others” category.

During the war, around one million people left the country and more than 120,000 were killed. Afterwards, many people left because of economic reasons and political instability.

According to the preliminary results of the 2013 census published in local media, 50.2 percent of the population described themselves as Bosniak, 30.6 percent Serb and 15.5 percent Croat.

Overall, 3.52 million people live in Bosnia today, some 875,000 fewer than in 1991.

Bosnia has the highest youth unemployment rate in Europe at over 65 percent. It means that just one in eight people aged between 16 and 24 has a job.

While the topic is hardly ever considered by the country's politicians, Bosnia is becoming an impoverished, half-deserted country of old people.

Analysis

Bosnia's EU application masks turmoil

The former Yugoslavia republic said it will formally apply to the EU next Monday. But the country still faces a number of underlying problems that make accession an unrealistic possibility in the short term.

Bosnia applies for EU membership

Bosnia and Herzegovina on Monday formally applied for EU membership, a process that is likely to take years.

Portugal was poised to scrap 'Golden Visas' - why didn't it?

Over the last 10 years, Portugal has given 1,470 golden visas to people originating from countries whose tax-transparency practices the EU finds problematic. But unlike common practice in other EU states with similar programmes, Portugal has not implemented "due diligence".

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP27: Food systems transformation for climate action
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region and the African Union urge the COP27 to talk about gender equality
  3. International Sustainable Finance CentreJoin CEE Sustainable Finance Summit, 15 – 19 May 2023, high-level event for finance & business
  4. Friedrich Naumann Foundation European DialogueGender x Geopolitics: Shaping an Inclusive Foreign Security Policy for Europe
  5. Obama FoundationThe Obama Foundation Opens Applications for its Leaders Program in Europe
  6. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBA lot more needs to be done to better protect construction workers from asbestos

Latest News

  1. EU must break Orbán's veto on a tax rate for multinationals
  2. Belarus dictator's family loves EU luxuries, flight data shows
  3. How Berlin and Paris sold-out the EU corporate due diligence law
  4. Turkey's EU-funded detention centres ripe with abuse: NGO
  5. In green subsidy race, EU should not imitate US
  6. EU Commission proposes suspending billions to Hungary
  7. EU: Russian assets to be returned in case of peace treaty
  8. Frontex leadership candidates grilled by MEPs

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Committee of the RegionsRe-Watch EURegions Week 2022
  2. UNESDA - Soft Drinks EuropeCall for EU action – SMEs in the beverage industry call for fairer access to recycled material
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic prime ministers: “We will deepen co-operation on defence”
  4. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBConstruction workers can check wages and working conditions in 36 countries
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Canadian ministers join forces to combat harmful content online
  6. European Centre for Press and Media FreedomEuropean Anti-SLAPP Conference 2022

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us