A sign warning of a landmine. In Bosnia and Herzegovina, more than 25 years after the end of the civil war, there are still around a thousand square kilometres of minefields.

Political situation A new start for democracy in a difficult context

Although the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina ended in 1995, relations remain strained between the three ethnic groups – Bosniaks, Croats and Serbs – in the country. The greatest challenge for the country is how to create an environment in which people can live together peacefully, regardless of their ethnic background or religion.

By the end of the war, one third of all housing had been destroyed. The years that followed were therefore dominated by the reconstruction effort. At the same time, Bosnia and Herzegovina underwent a radical process of reform, with restructuring of the economy, the education system, legislation and the administration system. The international community supported the country's efforts.

Complex structure hampers development

The political structure of Bosnia and Herzegovina is extremely complex. The state is made up of two entities – the Bosniak-Croat Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (FBiH) and the Republika Srpska (RS) – plus a third region, the Brčko District. At its head is a three-member presidency, the leadership of which rotates every eight months between representatives of the three ethnic groups.

While the Republika Srpska is centrally governed, the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina consists of ten autonomous cantons, each of which has its own parliament and government. Consequently, the entire state of Bosnia and Herzegovina and its 3.3 million inhabitants are governed by more than a dozen parliaments and their governments and thus also a large number of ministries.

However, the country's three major ethnic groups have so far not managed to develop a shared vision for a unified state. Essential aspects of good governance such as accountability, transparency and participation are negatively affected by this failure. Most of the political parties are organised along ethnic lines and obstruct each other on important political issues.

The last general elections took place in 2018, with some of the results still not having been implemented. In the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and in two out of ten cantons of the Federation no governments have been formed yet.

Since mid-2021, the secessionist aspirations of Republika Srpska have been intensifying, starting with a withdrawal from various state institutions, including the joint Bosnian army.