Tensions over Bosnia’s First Post-War Census

Sarajevo – Bosnia’s Serb-dominated entity has launched preparations for a census after Bosniak (Bosnian Muslim) and Croat lawmakers blocked the staging of a disputed nationwide census.

Bosniak politicians said such a census would be “illegal” and would only “further complicate” a two-year long political deadlock in the country, local media reported on Wednesday.

The issue of a new census for Bosnia has been straining relations among local politicians for months. Bosnia should hold the new census by 2011 as the last available data goes back to the pre-war census in 1991. It is also required as a part of the country’s path to European Union membership.
However, local leaders so far have failed to agree on the basic principles for the new census. Bosnian Serbs want the census to include questions related to citizens’ ethnic and religious background, as well as about the language they speak, which is being opposed by Bosniak, Bosnian Croat and some international officials.
Bosniak and Bosnian Croat leaders are also reluctant to hold a census until the full return of refugees’ is complete, since they fear it would otherwise cement the ethnic cleansing committed during the war.
As a result, Bosniak and Bosnian Croat votes on Monday brought down the proposed draft law on census at the state House of Peoples. In return, Bosnian Serb leaders launched an initiative to hold a census in their entity of Republika Srpska. They claimed any lower administrative unit, including municipalities, cantons as well as entities, are permitted by law to carry out such a registry.
Bosnian Serb politicians said that such a registry would be needed for future development programmes which the entity government plans in different municipalities across Republika Srpska, yet Bosniak and Bosnian Croat representatives said this would only mean holding an entity census “through the back doors.”
The international community’s envoy to Bosnia, the Office of the High Representative and other international organisations have so far not issued any comments regarding this dispute.

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