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  U.S. Department of State, August 1999
Bureau of European Affairs

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Background Notes:

Official Name:
Bosnia and Herzegovina



Area: 51,233 sq km, slightly smaller than West Virginia.
Cities: Capital--Sarajevo (est. pop 387,876); Banja Luka (220,407); Mostar (208,904); Tuzla (118,500); Bihac (49,544).
Terrain: Mountains in the central and southern regions, plains along the Sava River in the north.
Climate: Hot summers and cold winters; areas of high elevation have short, cool summers and long severe winters; mild, rainy winters along the coast.


Nationalities: Bosnian; Herzegovinian.
Population (July 1998 est.): 3,365,727.
Population growth rate (1998 est.): 3.63%.
Ethnic groups: Serb (40%); Muslim (38%); Croat (22%).
Religions: Muslim (40%); Orthodox (31%); Catholic (15%); Protestant (4%); other (10%).
Languages: Bosnian, Serbian, Croatian.
Education: Mandatory 8 years of primary school, 4 years in secondary school, and 4 years in universities and academies. In Bosnia and Herzegovina, there are 407 primary schools with 250,000 students, 171 secondary schools with 80,000 students, 6 universities in the major cities--Sarajevo, Mostar, Banja Luka, Tuzla, and Bihac--and 6 academies--4 pedagogic and 2 art academies.
Health: Infant mortality rate--30.8 deaths/1,000. Life expectancy: male 69.2, female 74.6. Work force (total): 1,026,254.


Type: Parliamentary democracy.
Constitution: The Dayton Agreement, signed December 14, 1995, included a new constitution now in force.
Independence: April 1992 (from Yugoslavia).
Branches: Executive--Chairman of the Presidency and 2 other members of three-member rotating presidency (chief of state), Cochairmen of the Council of Ministers (head of government), Council of Ministers (cabinet). Legislative-- bicameral Parliamentary assembly, consisting of National House of Representatives and House of Peoples (parliament). Judicial--Supreme Court, Constitutional Court, both supervised by the Ministry of Justice.
Subdivisions: Muslim/Croat Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (divided into 10 cantons), Republika Srpska.
Political parties: Party of Democratic Action (SDA); Croatian Democratic Union of BiH (HDZ-BiH); Serb Democratic Party (SDS); Party for Bosnia and Herzegovina (SBiH); Joint list (consisting of UBSD, RP, MBO, HSG, SPP); Civic Democratic Party (GDS); Croatian Peasants' Party of BiH (HSS); Independent Social Democratic Party (SNSD); Liberal Bosniak Organization (LBO); Liberal Party (LS); Muslim-Bosniac Organization (MBO); Republican Party of Bosnia and Herzegovina (RS); Serb Civic Council (SGV); Social Democratic Party (SDP); Socialist Party of Republika Srpska (SPRS); Social Democrats of Bosnia Herzegovina; Serb Radical Party of RS; Serb Party of Krojina and Posavina (SSKIP); National Democratic Union (DNZ); Serb National Alliance (SNS); Coalition for a United and Democratic BiH (coalition of SDA, SBiH, LS, and GDS).
Suffrage: Age 16 if employed, universal at age 18.


GDP (1997 est.): purchasing power parity--$4.41 billion.
GDP growth rate (1997 est.): 35%.
Income per capita (1997 est.): purchasing power parity--$1,690.
Inflation rate: 5%.
Natural resources: Coal, iron, bauxite, manganese, forests, copper, chromium, lead, zinc.
Agriculture: Wheat, corn, fruits, vegetables; livestock.
Industry: Steel, minerals, vehicle assembly, textiles, tobacco products, wooden furniture, tank and aircraft assembly, domestic appliances, oil refining.
Trade Exports (1995): $152 million. Major markets--NA Exchange rate: NA (strict currency board regime--convertible mark 1 KM=1 DEM).


Bosnia's parliament declared the republic's independence on April 5, 1992. Full recognition of its independence by the U.S. and most European countries occurred soon after, on April 7, and Bosnia-Herzegovina was admitted to the United Nations on May 22. The war that then ensued was ended in 1995 with the crucial participation of the United States in brokering the Dayton Accords. After leading the diplomatic and military effort to secure the Dayton agreement, the U.S. has and must continue to lead the effort to ensure its implementation. A large contingent of U.S. troops participate in the Bosnia Peace-keeping force (SFOR), and the U.S. has poured billions of dollars into Bosnia to help with reconstruction, humanitarian assistance, economic development, and military reconstruction. USAID has played a large role in post-war Bosnia, including programs in economic development and reform, democratic reform (media, elections), infrastructure development, and training programs for Bosnian professionals, among others. NGOs such as Save the Children and CARE also have played a large role in the reconstruction of the republic.

Principal U.S. Embassy Officials

Ambassador--Richard D. Kauzlarich
Deputy Chief of Mission--Sylvia Bazala
Political/Economic Officer--Mark A. Tokola
Consular Officer--Ann B. Sides
Administrative Officer--Douglas B. Leonnig
Public Affairs Officer--Janet E. Garvey


For the first centuries of the Christian era, Bosnia was part of the Roman Empire. After the fall of Rome, Bosnia was contested by Byzantium and Rome's successors in the West. Slavs settled the region in the 7th century, and the kingdoms of Serbia and Croatia split control of Bosnia in the 9th century. The 11th and 12th centuries saw the rule of the region by the kingdom of Hungary. The medieval kingdom of Bosnia gained its independence around 1200 A.D. Bosnia remained independent up until 1463, when Ottoman Turks conquered the region.

During Ottoman rule, many Bosnians dropped their ties to Christianity in favor of Islam. Bosnia was under Ottoman rule until 1878, when it was given to Austria-Hungary as a colony. While those living in Bosnia enjoyed the benefits of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, South Slavs in Serbia and elsewhere were calling for a South Slav state; World War I began when Serb nationalist Gavrilo Princip assassinated the Archduke Ferdinand in Sarajevo. Following the Great War, Bosnia became part of the South Slav state of Yugoslavia, only to be given to Nazi-puppet Croatia in World War II. The Cold War saw the establishment of the Communist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia under Tito, and the reestablishment of Bosnia as a republic with its medieval borders.

Yugoslavia's unraveling was hastened by the rise of Slobodan Milosevic to power in 1986. Milosevic's embrace of the Serb nationalist agenda led to intrastate ethnic strife. Slovenia and Croatia both declared independence in 1991, and Bosnia-Herzegovina soon followed. In February 1992, the Bosnian Government held a referendum on independence, and Bosnian Serbs, supported by neighboring Serbia, responded with armed resistance in an effort to partition the republic along ethnic lines in an attempt to create a "greater Serbia." Muslims and Croats in Bosnia signed an agreement in March 1994 creating the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. This narrowed the field of warring parties down to two. The conflict continued through most of 1995, ending with the Dayton Peace Agreement signed on November 21, 1995 (the final version was signed December 14, 1995 in Paris). The Muslim/Croat Federation, along with the Serb-led Republika Srpska, make up Bosnia-Herzegovina.


Next to Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina was the poorest republic in the old Yugoslav Federation. For the most part, agriculture has been in private hands, but farms have been small and inefficient, and food has traditionally been a net import for the republic. The centrally planned economy has resulted in some legacies in the economy. Industry is greatly overstaffed, reflecting the rigidity of the planned economy. Under Tito, military industries were pushed in the republic; Bosnia hosted a large share of Yugoslavia's defense plants. Three years of interethnic strife destroyed the economy and infrastructure in Bosnia, caused the death of about 200,000 people, and displaced half of the population. However, considerable progress has been made since peace was reestablished in the republic. Due to Bosnia's strict currency board regime, inflation has remained low in the Federation and RS. However, growth has been uneven up until this point, with the Federation outpacing the RS; this is due to the disparity in economic assistance to the Federation as opposed to the RS. Bosnia's most immediate task remains economic revitalization to create jobs and income. In order to do this fully, the environment must be conducive to a private sector, market-led economy. Bosnia faces a dual challenge: not only must the nation recover from the war, but it also must make the transition from socialism to capitalism. According to World Bank estimates, GDP growth was 62% in the Federation and 25% in the RS in 1996, 35% in the Federation and flat in the RS in 1997, and continued growth in the Federation in 1998. Growth in the RS should see dramatic increases following recent upsurges in donor investment. Support for Eastern European Democracy (SEED) assistance accounts for 20%-25% of economic growth in Bosnia. This kind of economic growth would not have been possible without both international assistance and the establishment of economic institutions and reforms. Movement has been slow, but progress has been made in economic reform. A Central Bank was established in late 1997, successful debt negotiations were held with the London Club in December 1997 and with the Paris Club in October 1998, and a new currency was introduced in mid-1998.


Principal Government Officials

President--Zivko Radisic (Bosnian Serb)
Co-Prime Ministers--Alija Izetbegovic (Bosnian Muslim) Ante Jelavic (Bosnian Croat)
President (RS)--Nikola Poplasen
President (Federation)--Ejup Ganic

President and Cabinet

The Presidency in Bosnia Herzegovina rotates among three members (Bosniak, Serb, Croat), each elected for a 4-year term. The three members of the Presidency are elected directly by the people (Federation votes for the Bosniak/Croat, RS for the Serb).

The Presidency is responsible for:

  • Conducting the foreign policy of Bosnia and Herzegovina;
  • Appointing ambassadors and other international representatives, no more than two thirds of which may come from the Federation;
  • Representing Bosnia and Herzegovina in European and international organizations and institutions and seeking membership in such organizations and institutions of which it is not a member;
  • Negotiating, denouncing, and, with the consent of the Parliamentary Assembly, ratifying treaties of Bosnia and Herzegovina;
  • Executing decisions of the Parliamentary Assembly;
  • Proposing, upon the recommendation of the Council of Ministers, an annual budget to the Parliamentary Assembly;
  • Reporting as requested, but no less than annually, to the Parliamentary Assembly on expenditures by the Presidency;
  • Coordinating as necessary with international and nongovernmental organizations in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and;
  • Performing such other functions as may be necessary to carry out its duties, as may be assigned to it by the Parliamentary Assembly, or as may be agreed by the Entities.

The Chair of the Council of Ministers is nominated by the Presidency and approved by the House of Representatives. He is then responsible for appointing a Foreign Minister, Minister of Foreign Trade, and others as appropriate. The Council is responsible for carrying out the policies and decisions in the fields of foreign policy; foreign trade policy; customs policy; monetary policy; finances of the institutions and for the international obligations of Bosnia and Herzegovina; immigration, refugee, and asylum policy and regulation; international and inter-Entity criminal law enforcement, including relations with Interpol; establishment and operation of common and international communications facilities; regulation of inter-Entity transportation; air traffic control; facilitation of inter-Entity coordination; and other matters as agreed by the Entities.


The Parliamentary Assembly is the lawmaking body in Bosnia and Herzegovina. It consists of two houses: the House of Peoples and the House of Representatives. The House of Peoples includes 15 delegates, two-thirds of which come from the Federation (5 Croat and 5 Bosniaks) and one-third from the RS (5 Serbs). Nine members of the House of Peoples constitutes a quorum, provided that at least three delegates from each group are present. Federation representatives are selected by the House of Peoples of the Federation, and RS representatives are selected by the RS National Assembly. The House of Representatives is comprised of 42 Members, two-thirds elected from the Federation and one-third elected from the RS. Federation representatives are elected directly by the voters of the Federation, and RS representatives are selected by the RS National Assembly (the National Assembly is directly elected by RS voters).

The Parliamentary Assembly is responsible for enacting legislation as necessary to implement decisions of the Presidency or to carry out the responsibilities of the Assembly under the Constitution; deciding upon the sources and amounts of revenues for the operations of the institutions of Bosnia and Herzegovina and international obligations of Bosnia and Herzegovina; approving a budget for the institutions of Bosnia and Herzegovina; deciding whether to consent to the ratification of treaties; and other matters as are necessary to carry out its duties of as are assigned to it by mutual agreement of the Entities.


The Constitutional Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina is the supreme, final arbiter of legal matters. It is composed of nine members: four members are selected by the House of Representatives of the Federation, two by the Assembly of the RS, and three by the President of the European Court of Human Rights after consultation with the Presidency. Terms of initial appointees are 5 years, unless they resign or are removed for cause by consensus of the other judges. Once appointed, judges are not eligible for reappointment. Judges subsequently appointed will serve until the age of 70, unless they resign or are removed for cause. Appointments made 5 years after the initial appointments may be governed by a different law of selection, to be determined by the Parliamentary Assembly.

Proceedings of the Court are public, and decisions will be published. Rules of court are adopted by a majority of the Court, and decisions are final and binding. The Constitutional Court's original jurisdiction lies in deciding any constitutional dispute that arises between the Entities or between Bosnia and Herzegovina and an Entity or Entities. Such disputes may be referred only by a member of the Presidency, by the Chair of the Council of Ministers, by the Chair or Deputy Chair of either chamber of the Parliamentary Assembly, or by one-fourth of the legislature of either Entity. The Court also has appellate jurisdiction within the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Both the Federation and the RS government have established lower court systems for their territories.

Bosnian Embassy 43 Alipasina 71000 Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina tel: [387] (71) 445-700


The implementation of the Dayton Accords of 1995 has focused the efforts of policymakers in Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as the international community, on regional stabilization in the former Yugoslavia. With the end of the conflict in Kosovo, these efforts will continue to a larger extent. Within Bosnia and Herzegovina, relations with its neighbors of Croatia, Albania, and Serbia have been fairly stable since the signing of Dayton in 1995.

Foreign aid

The U.S. role in the Dayton Accords and their implementation has been key to any of the successes in Bosnia. In the 3 years since the Dayton Accords were signed, over $4 billion in foreign aid has flown into Bosnia, about $800 million of it coming from SEED funds. As stated above, this support has been key to the growth and revitalization of the economy and infrastructure in the republic. However, most of this aid has been targeted at the Federation; the previous government of the RS was anti-Dayton and not assisted by the U.S. The election of the "Sloga" or "Unity" Coalition government, led by Prime Minister Dodik, has shifted the balance of power in the RS to a pro-Dayton stance and will result in an upsurge of funding to the RS from the international community.

In addition to SEED funding, USAID programs have been crucial to the redevelopment of Bosnia and Herzegovina. USAID has programing in the following areas: economic policy reform and restructuring; private sector development (the Business Development Program); infrastructure rebuilding; democratic reforms in the media, political process and elections, and rule of law/legal code formulation; and training programs for women and diplomats.


The U.S. Department of State's Consular Information Program provides Travel Warnings and Consular Information Sheets. Travel Warnings are issued when the State Department recommends that Americans avoid travel to a certain country. Consular Information Sheets exist for all countries and include information on immigration practices, currency regulations, health conditions, areas of instability, crime and security, political disturbances, and the addresses of the U.S. posts in the country. Public Announcements are issued as a means to disseminate information quickly about terrorist threats and other relatively short-term conditions overseas which pose significant risks to the security of American travelers. Free copies of this information are available by calling the Bureau of Consular Affairs at 202-647-5225 or via the fax-on-demand system: 202-647-3000. Travel Warnings and Consular Information Sheets also are available on the Consular Affairs Internet home page: http://travel.state.gov and the Consular Affairs Bulletin Board (CABB). To access CABB, dial the modem number: 301-946-4400 (it will accommodate up to 33,600 bps), set terminal communications program to N-8-1(no parity, 8 bits, 1 stop bit); and terminal emulation to VT100. The login is travel and the password is info. (Note: Lower case is required). The CABB also carries international security information from the Overseas Security Advisory Council and Department's Bureau of Diplomatic Security. Consular Affairs Trips for Travelers publication series, which contain information on obtaining passports and planning a safe trip abroad, can be purchased from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, P.O. Box 371954, Pittsburgh, PA 15250-7954; telephone: 202-512-1800; fax 202-512-2250.

Emergency information concerning Americans traveling abroad may be obtained from the Office of Overseas Citizens Services at (202) 647-5225. For after-hours emergencies, Sundays and holidays, call 202-647-4000.

Passport Services information can be obtained by calling the 24-hour, 7-day a week automated system ($.35 per minute) or live operators 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. (EST) Monday-Friday ($1.05 per minute). The number is 1-900-225-5674 (TDD: 1-900-225-7778). Major credit card users (for a flat rate of $4.95) may call 1-888-362-8668 (TDD: 1-888-498-3648).

Travelers can check the latest health information with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia. A hotline at 877-FYI-TRIP (877-394-8747) and a web site at http://www.cdc.gov/travel/index.htm give the most recent health advisories, immunization recommendations or requirements, and advice on food and drinking water safety for regions and countries. A booklet entitled Health Information for International Travel (HHS publication number CDC-95-8280) is available from the U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, DC 20402, tel. (202) 512-1800.

Information on travel conditions, visa requirements, currency and customs regulations, legal holidays, and other items of interest to travelers also may be obtained before your departure from a country's embassy and/or consulates in the U.S. (for this country, see "Principal Government Officials" listing in this publication).

U.S. citizens who are long-term visitors or traveling in dangerous areas are encouraged to register at the U.S. embassy upon arrival in a country (see "Principal U.S. Embassy Officials" listing in this publication). This may help family members contact you in case of an emergency.

Further Electronic Information

Department of State Foreign Affairs Network. Available on the Internet, DOSFAN provides timely, global access to official U.S. foreign policy information. Updated daily, DOSFAN includes Background Notes; Dispatch, the official magazine of U.S. foreign policy; daily press briefings; Country Commercial Guides; directories of key officers of foreign service posts; etc. DOSFAN's World Wide Web site is at http://1997-2001.state.gov.

U.S. Foreign Affairs on CD-ROM (USFAC). Published on an annual basis by the U.S. Department of State, USFAC archives information on the Department of State Foreign Affairs Network, and includes an array of official foreign policy information from 1990 to the present. Contact the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, P.O. Box 371954, Pittsburgh, PA 15250-7954. To order, call (202) 512-1800 or fax (202) 512-2250.

National Trade Data Bank (NTDB). Operated by the U.S. Department of Commerce, the NTDB contains a wealth of trade-related information. It is available on the Internet (www.stat-usa.gov) and on CD-ROM. Call the NTDB Help-Line at (202) 482-1986 for more information.

[end document]

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