Bosnia and Herzegovina Department of State Background

U.S. Department of State Background Note

Bosnia and Herzegovina


The three main ethnic groups in present-day Bosnia and Herzegovina are Bosniak, Serb, and Croat, and languages are Bosnian, Serbian, and Croatian (formerly "Serbo-Croatian"). Nationalities are Bosniak (Muslim), Bosnian Serb, and Bosnian Croat. Religions include Islam, Serb Orthodoxy, Roman Catholicism, Judaism, some Protestant sects, and some others.

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 until 1463, when Ottoman Turks conquered the region.

During Ottoman rule, many Bosnians converted from Christianity to Islam. Bosnia was under Ottoman rule until 1878, when it was given to Austria-Hungary as a colony. While those living in Bosnia came under the rule 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 Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo. Following the Great War, Bosnia became part of the South Slav state of Yugoslavia, only to be given to the Nazi-puppet state, the Independent State of Croatia (NDH) in World War II. During this period, many atrocities were committed against Jews, Serbs, and others who resisted the occupation. The Cold War saw the establishment of the Communist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia under Josip Broz Tito, and the reestablishment of Bosnia as a republic with its medieval borders within the federation of Yugoslavia.

Yugoslavia's unraveling was hastened by Slobodan Milosevic's rise to power in 1986. Milosevic's embrace of Serb nationalism led to intrastate ethnic strife. Slovenia and Croatia both declared independence from Yugoslavia in 1991. On March 1, 1992, the Bosnian Government held a referendum on independence. Bosnia's parliament declared the republic's independence on April 5, 1992. However, this move was opposed by Serb representatives, who favored remaining in Yugoslavia. Bosnian Serbs, supported by neighboring Serbia, responded with armed force in an effort to partition the republic along ethnic lines to create a "greater Serbia." Full recognition of Bosnia and Herzegovina's independence by the United States and most European countries occurred on April 7, and Bosnia and Herzegovina was admitted to the United Nations on May 22, 1992.

In March 1994, Muslims and Croats in Bosnia signed an agreement creating the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. This narrowed the field of warring parties to two. The conflict continued through most of 1995, and many atrocities were committed, including acts of genocide committed by members of the Army of Republika Srpska in and around Srebrenica from July 12-22, 1995, where approximate 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys were killed. The conflict ended with the November 21, 1995 Dayton Peace Agreement, which was formally signed on December 14, 1995 in Paris.

Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic, the political and military leaders of the Bosnian Serb separatist movement, were indicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia ( in The Hague in July 1995 on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity stemming from their role in the Srebrenica massacre. Karadzic and Mladic remain at large.

Bosnia and Herzegovina today consists of two Entities--the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, which is largely Bosniak and Croat, and the Republika Srpska, which is primarily Serb. In July 2000, the Constitutional Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina rendered a decision whereby Bosniaks, Croats, and Serbs are recognized as constituent people throughout the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina. In March 2002, this decision was formally recognized and agreed by the major political parties in both Entities.

The most recent national elections took place in October 2006, electing new state presidency members; Entity governments; and state, Entity, and cantonal parliaments. The traditionally nationalist parties (SDS, HDZ, SDA) lost ground to emerging opposition parties (SNSD, SBiH, HDZ-1990), although the opposition parties relied heavily on ethnically based messages to appeal to voters. A six-party coalition has formed a national government. The next national elections are scheduled for October 2010. Bosnia and Herzegovina introduced the direct election of mayors at municipal elections held in October 2004.

The international community retains an extraordinary civilian and military presence in BiH stemming from the Dayton Peace Accords. The Dayton Accords created the position of High Representative, an international official charged with overseeing implementation of the civilian aspects of the agreement. The current High Representative (since July 2007) is Slovakia's Miroslav Lajcak (

In December 1995, NATO deployed a 60,000-troop Implementation Force (IFOR) to oversee implementation of the military aspects of the peace agreement. IFOR transitioned into a smaller Stabilization Force (SFOR) in 2006. With the end of the SFOR mission in December 2005, the European Union (EU) assumed primary responsibility for military stabilization operations. Approximately 2,500 EU troops remain deployed in Bosnia ( NATO maintains a small headquarters operation with responsibility to assist with defense reform and efforts against persons indicted for war crimes and counterterrorism (


  • Conducting the foreign policy of Bosnia and Herzegovina;
  • Appointing ambassadors and other international representatives, no more than two-thirds of whom 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 non-governmental organizations in Bosnia and Herzegovina;
  • Exercising command and control over the Armed Forces of Bosnia and Herzegovina in peacetime, crises, and war, 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 Defense, Minister of Foreign Trade, and others as appropriate. The Council is responsible for carrying out the policies and decisions in the fields of defense, intelligence, 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.

Legislature. 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 whom come from the Federation (5 Croats and 5 Bosniaks) and one-third from the Republika Srpska (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 Republika Srpska representatives are selected by the Republika Srpska National Assembly.

The House of Representatives is comprised of 42 members, two-thirds elected from the Federation and one-third elected from the Republika Srpska. Federation representatives are elected directly by the voters of the Federation, and Republika Srpska representatives are directly elected by Republika Srpska 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; and deciding whether to consent to the ratification of treaties.

Judiciary. The Constitutional Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina is the supreme, final arbiter of legal matters. It is composed of nine members: four are selected by the House of Representatives of the Federation, two by the Assembly of the Republika Srpska, and three by the President of the European Court of Human Rights after consultation with the Presidency. 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. The Court also has appellate jurisdiction within the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Both the Federation and the Republika Srpska government have established lower court systems for their territories.

Principal Government Officials

State Level
Tri-Presidency--Zeljko Komsic (Bosnian Croat and current Chairman), Nebojsa Radmanovic (Bosnian Serb), Haris Silajdzic (Bosniak),
Chairman of the Council of Ministers--Nikola Spiric

Council of Ministers
Foreign Affairs--Sven Alkalaj
Deputy--Ana Trisic-Babic
Defense--Selmo Cikotic
Deputy--Marina Pendes
Deputy--Igor Crnadak
Foreign Trade and Economic Relations--Slobodan Puhalac
Deputy--Vilim Primorac
Treasury--Dragan Vrankic
Deputy--Fuad Kasumovic
Civil Affairs--Sredoje Novic
Deputy--Senad Sepic
Human Right and Refugees--Safet Halilovic
Deputy--Slavko Marin
Security--Tarik Sadovic
Deputy--Mijo Kresic
Justice--Barisa Colak
Deputy--Srdan Arnaut
Transport and Communications--Bozo Ljubic
Deputy--Veselin Poljasevic

BIH Parliament--House of Representatives
Speaker--Beriz Belkic (Bosniak)
Deputy Speaker--Niko Lozancic (Bosnian Croat)
Deputy Speaker--Milorad Zivkovic (Bosnian Serb)

BIH Parliament--House of Peoples
Speaker--Ilija Filipovic (Croat)
Deputy Speaker--Sulejman Tihic (Bosniak)
Deputy Speaker--Mladen Ivanic (Serb)

President--Borjana Kristo (Croat)
Vice President--Mirsad Kebo (Bosniak)
Vice President--Spomenka Micic (Serb)
Prime Minister--Nedzad Brankovic
Deputy Prime Minister--Vjekoslav Bevanda
Deputy Prime Minister--Gavrilo Grahovac

Federation Government
Agriculture, Water Management and Forestry--Damir Ljubic
Development and Entrepreneurship--Velimir Kunic
Culture, and Sports--Gavrilo Grahovac (also Deputy Prime Minister)
Energy, Mining, and Industry--Vahid Heco
Finance--Vjekoslav Bevanda (also Deputy Prime Minister)
Health--Safet Omerovic
Interior--Muhidin Alic
Justice--Feliks Vidovic
Refugees and Displaced Persons--Edin Music
Social Welfare and Labor--Perica Jelecevic
Trade--Desnica Radivojevic
Transport and Communications--Nail Seckanovic
Urban Planning and Environmental Protection--Salko Obhodjas
Environment and Tourism--Nevenko Herceg
Education and Science--Meliha Alic
War Veteran Affairs--Zahid Crnkic (nominated, pending confirmation)

Federation Parliament--House of Representatives (42 members)
Speaker--Safet Softic (Bosniak)
Deputy Speaker--Marinko Cavara (Croat)
Deputy Speaker--Vesna Saradzic (Serb)

Federation Parliament--House of Peoples (15 Members)
Speaker--Stjepan Kresic (Croat)
Deputy Speaker--Besim Imamovic (Bosniak)
Deputy Speaker--Drago Puzigaca (Serb)

Republika Srpska
Vice President--Adil Osmanovic (Bosniak)
Vice President--Davor Cordas (Croat)
Prime Minister--Milorad Dodik
Deputy Prime Minister--Omer Brankovic
Deputy Prime Minister--Jasna Brkic

National Assembly (83 members)
Speaker--Igor Radojicic
Deputy Speaker--Sefket Hafizovic
Deputy Speaker--Nada Tesanovic

Governance and Local Self-Governance--Zoran Lipovac
Education and Culture--Anton Kasipovic
Economy, Energy and Development--Rajko Ubiparip
Family, Youth and Sports--Proko Dragosavljevic
Foreign Economic Relations--Jasna Brkic (also Deputy Prime Minister)
Finance--Aleksandar Dzombic
Health and Social Policy--Ranko Skrbic
Interior--Stanislav Cadjo
Justice--Dzerard Selman
Refugee Affairs--Omer Brankovic (also Deputy Prime Minister)
Science and Technology--Bakir Ajanovic
Trade and Tourism--Predrag Gluhakovic
Transport and Communications--Nedeljko Cubrilovic
Urban Planning, Utilities, Environment--Fatima Fetibegovic
Labor and War Veterans Issues--Bosko Tomic
Water Resources and Forestry (Agriculture)--Radivoje Bratic

Bosnia and Herzegovina maintains an embassy in the United States at 2109 E Street NW, Washington, DC 20037 (tel.: 202-337-1500; fax: 202-337-1502).


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. However, donor resources for Bosnia and Herzegovina have diminished due to competing assistance priorities elsewhere in the region and globally. Bosnia and Herzegovina's relations with its neighbors Croatia, Montenegro and Serbia have been fairly stable since the signing of Dayton in 1995. The U.S. role in the Dayton Accords and their implementation has been key to successes in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Since the Dayton Accords were signed, over $14 billion in foreign aid has moved into Bosnia and Herzegovina, approximately $940 million of it coming from Support for East European Democracy (SEED) funds. As stated above, this support has been key to the growth and revitalization of the economy and infrastructure in the republic. In addition to SEED funding, U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) programs have been crucial to the redevelopment of Bosnia and Herzegovina. USAID has programming 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.

Bosnia and Herzegovina is a member of the United Nations (1992); International Monetary Fund (IMF) (1992), World Bank (1995), Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) (1992); and the Council of Europe (2002). It also participates in regional cooperation through the Stability Pact, Central-European Initiative (CEI), Southeast Europe Co-operation Initiative (SECI), Southeast Europe Co-operation Process (SEECP), Adriatic-Ionic Initiative (AII) and others.


The 1992-95 war in Bosnia and Herzegovina was ended with the crucial participation of the United States in brokering the 1995 Dayton Accords. After leading the diplomatic and military effort to secure the Dayton agreement, the United States has continued to lead the effort to ensure its implementation. The United States maintains command of the NATO headquarters in Sarajevo. The United States has donated hundreds of millions of dollars to help with reconstruction, humanitarian assistance, economic development, and military reconstruction in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has played a large role in post-war Bosnia and Herzegovina, including programs in economic development and reform, democratic reform (media, elections), infrastructure development, and training programs for Bosnian professionals, among others. Additionally, there are many non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that have likewise played significant roles in the reconstruction.

Principal U.S. Embassy Officials
Ambassador-- Charles L. English
Deputy Chief of Mission--Judith Cefkin
Political Counselor--Michael Murphy
Economic Counselor--Frank Ostrander
Consular Counselor--Paul Boyd
Management Officer--Dorothy Sarro
Public Affairs Officer--David Reinert
USAID--Jane Nandy

The U.S. Embassy in Bosnia and Herzegovina is at Alipašina 43, 71000 Sarajevo (tel.: 387-33-445-700; fax: 387-33-659-722).

The U.S. Department of State's Consular Information Program advises Americans traveling and residing abroad through Consular Information Sheets, Public Announcements, and Travel Warnings. Consular Information Sheets exist for all countries and include information on entry and exit requirements, currency regulations, health conditions, safety and security, crime, political disturbances, and the addresses of the U.S. embassies and consulates abroad. Public Announcements are issued to disseminate information quickly about terrorist threats and other relatively short-term conditions overseas that pose significant risks to the security of American travelers. Travel Warnings are issued when the State Department recommends that Americans avoid travel to a certain country because the situation is dangerous or unstable.

For the latest security information, Americans living and traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department's Bureau of Consular Affairs Internet web site at, where the current Worldwide Caution, Public Announcements, and Travel Warnings can be found. Consular Affairs Publications, which contain information on obtaining passports and planning a safe trip abroad, are also available at For additional information on international travel, see

The Department of State encourages all U.S citizens traveling or residing abroad to register via the State Department's travel registration website or at the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate abroad. Registration will make your presence and whereabouts known in case it is necessary to contact you in an emergency and will enable you to receive up-to-date information on security conditions.

Emergency information concerning Americans traveling abroad may be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S. and Canada or the regular toll line 1-202-501-4444 for callers outside the U.S. and Canada.

The National Passport Information Center (NPIC) is the U.S. Department of State's single, centralized public contact center for U.S. passport information. Telephone: 1-877-4USA-PPT (1-877-487-2778). Customer service representatives and operators for TDD/TTY are available Monday-Friday, 7:00 a.m. to 12:00 midnight, Eastern Time, excluding federal holidays.

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 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.

Further Electronic Information
Department of State Web Site. Available on the Internet at, the Department of State web site provides timely, global access to official U.S. foreign policy information, including Background Notes and daily press briefings along with the directory of key officers of Foreign Service posts and more. The Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC) provides security information and regional news that impact U.S. companies working abroad through its website provides a portal to all export-related assistance and market information offered by the federal government and provides trade leads, free export counseling, help with the export process, and more.

STAT-USA/Internet, a service of the U.S. Department of Commerce, provides authoritative economic, business, and international trade information from the Federal government. The site includes current and historical trade-related releases, international market research, trade opportunities, and country analysis and provides access to the National Trade Data Bank.

Revised: Oct. 2007

See also: