Bosnia & Hercegovina is unique among former Yugoslav republics in its administrative organization, a result of the 1995 Dayton Agreement that ended the war. The twin entities of the country – the Bosnian Federation, comprised of Muslim Bosniaks and ethnic Croats, and the Republika Srpska, composed of ethnic Serbs – have separate governments and policy implementation. Within the entities, local self-government also plays a greater role than in most neighboring states.
Although it has significantly lessened, the international presence in Bosnia that came as part of the peace agreement remains. In one sign of new confidence, the country was given visa liberalization to Schengen countries in December 2010. However, elections held ever since then have indicated that ethnic nationalism and religion remain divisive forces in political discourse. Five years later, the coalition-building spirit had improved somewhat though divisions remain.
Indeed, the former antagonisms between warring parties, though now abated, remain something to be considered by many outside observers concerned about the country’s long-term sustainability. However, it is perhaps the bureaucratic complexity and administrative reduplication posed by the unique entity structure that poses the biggest challenge in making the Bosnian ‘experiment’ something realizable for the future.
While Bosnia thus has political (as well as economic) problems, it still evokes a strong sentimental appeal for its citizens’ relaxed approach and historical remnants, primarily of an Ottoman character. Bosnians of whatever ethnicity or religion are hospitable and welcoming, though in politics tribalism does remain a tendency.
Although Bosnia’s political future is still not certain, with calls for partition still having considerable support in some corners, there is less fear that open warfare could again return to the country. After its 20th anniversary in 2015, there were increasing calls to review the Dayton Agreement which could lead to possible future structural changes, as well as the endemic concerns over the economy.
The future shape of the country, and possible partition between Orthodox Serbs, Catholic Croats and Bosniak Muslims; corruption in politics and business; the role of religion in society; administrative and bureaucratic challenges within and between the entities; the role of international institutions in day to day life; relations with neighboring states, Turkey and other Muslim states.
Forward Planning: Points of Interest
- A rise or fall in support from international entities and the ensuing result for local leaders
- EU relations, and a possibly non-traditional development in relations with the US under a Republican Trump administration in Washington
- The developing role of Turkey in relation to the role of other Muslim states and interests
- The continuation of police and intelligence activities regarding the phenomenon of Bosniak ISIS returning fighters, and the country’s possible use as a logistics base for terrorism in Western Europe
- Continuing workers’ protests
- Improved relations and greater activity of the Vatican in Bosnia, particularly the Croat section.