Foreign policy and defense
Bosnia, which consists of two autonomous
entities - the Federation of Bosnia-Herzegovina and the
Republika Srpska - is largely held together by strong
external pressure. Central power is weak, and since the
peace agreement in 1995, the country is partly
controlled by direct involvement of the international
community. The EU has taken over the role of a leading
player from the United States. Relations with
neighboring countries are relatively stable.
After the end of the war in 1995, the United States
held a dominant position through the NATO-led
peacekeeping force Ifor's presence in the country. Ifor,
which consisted of 60,000 men, was converted to Sfor
after one year, and the military presence was then
gradually reduced. In 2004, the EU peacekeeping mission
was taken over. Since 2012, the peacekeeping force Eufor
Althea consists of 600 men.
Overview of business holidays and various national observances in Bosnia and Herzegovina for years of 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023, 2024 and 2025.
The peace agreement also meant the establishment of a
"High Representative" for Bosnia-Herzegovina, with its
own administration (Office of the High Representative,
OHR). The task of the representative is to oversee the
civil parts of the peace agreement (see also Political
system). The High Representative is appointed by the
countries and organizations that supported the Dayton
Agreement (including the United States and Russia).
Everyone in the post has been from EU countries. The
first was the Swedish Carl Bildt, since 2009 Austrian
Valentin Inzko holds the post.
Between 2002 and 2011, the High Representative was
also the EU's special envoy in Bosnia.
The goal is for the High Representative to be
withdrawn and for Bosnia to govern itself, but the
country is so politically unstable that it has so far
been deemed unreasonable.
The pressure on Bosnia is now being made through
economic and political means. Although the direct aid
flow has slowed considerably, the country is still
receiving assistance from abroad. The forces that want
to get Bosnia to function as a modern, independent state
strive to implement reforms with the aim of becoming a
member of the EU in the future. However, the groups in
the country that oppose increased integration within
Bosnia are often in the way.
The biggest stumbling block in relations with the EU
has long been the sometimes lacking cooperation of the
Bosnian authorities with the International Criminal
Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague.
The opposition to arresting suspected war criminals was
particularly great in the Republika Srpska. However,
ICTY was discontinued at the end of 2017 (see also
Democracy and Rights).
The EU has also demanded that Bosnia strengthen the
rule of law and democracy and improve the conditions for
A recognition that the country was about to adapt to
the demands of the outside world received Bosnia when it
was admitted to the Council of Europe in 2002.
The EU also recognized Bosnia as a potential
candidate country in 2003 and 2005, negotiations on a
so-called Stabilization and Association Agreement began.
The agreement, which is considered the first step
towards EU membership, was signed in 2008 and entered
into force in 2015. Thereafter, Bosnia could apply for
membership and the country was formally approved as a
candidate country at the end of 2016. But it is expected
to take a while before the Bosnians can even start
membership negotiations with the EU.
Collaboration with NATO
Strong wishes were also there from the beginning on a
Bosnian membership in NATO. It helped the military in
the two entities in 2003 agree to obey a joint defense
minister and a single commander-in-chief. In addition,
it was decided to introduce common uniforms, an
important symbolic step for the former enemy armies. At
the end of 2006, Bosnia was adopted into NATO's
Partnership for Peace (PFF) cooperation program, and in
2010, NATO decided on an action plan describing the
conditions for future membership.
Gradually, however, a future NATO membership has
become an internal Bosnian battle issue. Bosniaks and
Croats still want to work for a rapprochement with NATO,
but Serbian leaders oppose it and advocate military
alliance freedom. Strong Serbian nationalist forces want
to see an approach to Russia.
Contacts with neighboring countries were facilitated
when the nationalist leaders who ruled the countries
during the wars eventually disappeared. At a meeting
with Croatia and the then Yugoslavia (now Serbia) in
2002, it was agreed that the borders between the
countries should be respected, the return of refugees
should be facilitated and regional cooperation
strengthened. Nevertheless, Bosnia and Croatia have a
smaller border dispute concerning the area around
Bosnia's short coast towards the Adriatic.
Serbia's role in the war is a recurring source of
bitterness between the countries. The Criminal Tribunal
ruled in 2001 that the Bosnian Serb army committed
genocide in Srebrenica. But Bosnia also brought the
complaint against Serbia for genocide, at the
International Court of Justice (ICJ), which also has its
seat in The Hague. The process was the first in the ICJ
where one state accused another of genocide. The court
ruled in 2007 that what happened in Srebrenica was
genocide, but that Serbia did not bear direct
responsibility. The verdict aroused great disappointment
In 2015, relations deteriorated in connection with
disagreement over in which country a Bosnian suspected
war criminal would be brought to justice. The dispute
resulted in a state visit by Serbia's President Tomislav
Nikolić being canceled. Serbia's Prime Minister
Aleksandar Vučić was subjected to stone throwing and
burping when he came to Srebrenica to attend a ceremony
on the 20th anniversary of the massacre there. Towards
the end of the year, however, the two governments held a
first joint meeting in Sarajevo, and Vučić was able to
return to Srebrenica to honor the victims of the
Bosnia has not recognized Kosovo's independence, as
the Bosnian Serbs in solidarity with Serbia refuse it.
Other countries that were part of former Yugoslavia
The defense consists of troops from all three
previously hostile forces. In 2016, the Bosnian military
conducted a first of two joint exercises with both NATO
and the EU. Bosnia also participates in peacekeeping
FACTS - DEFENSE
10,500 men (2017)
The air Force
800 men (2017)
Military expenditure's share of GDP
0.9 percent (2017)
Military spending's share of the state budget
2.1 percent (2017)