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The Importance of the Brcko District in Bosnia Herzegovina

Hausarbeit 2014 18 Seiten

Geschichte Europa - and. Länder - Neueste Geschichte, Europäische Einigung


Table of Content


Introduction to the issue area
Context information
Starting and end of armed conflict in Brčko:
Political challenges for Brčko district
Aims of research and research questions
Data collection
Disposition of the paper

Theoretical perspectives
Defining ethnicity
Defining ethnic conflict

Empirical observations
Mainstream political discourse in Bosnia and Herzegovina
Education as a security issue in Bosnia and Herzegovina
Analysis and reflection
Ethno politics in Bosnia and Herzegovina
Segregation in Bosnian society through education




In this Research paper I will discuss the importance of District Brčko of Bosnia and Herzegovina for peace and stability in Bosnia and Herzegovina. In this paper I will include the time from1992 (the beginning of war in Brčko and Bosnia), Dayton peace negotiations (which brought a peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina), grounding decision for Brčko District in 1999 and its important facts for Bosnia and Herzegovina, what this decision brought good and what does not function, up to latest decision of frizzing of OHR office in district Brčko. I will also highlight current political discourse in Bosnia and Herzegovina and its effects on security in Bosnia and Herzegovina are.

Keywords: District Brčko, Ethnic segregation, Dayton peace agreement, Separation process in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Peace in Bosnia, Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Republic of Srpska.


In 1995 with signing the Dayton Peace Agreement (DPA) armed conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina has ended. It was signed by representatives of Bosnia and Herzegovina (Alija Izetbegović-Bosnian president), Serbia (Slobodan Milošević-President of Serbia) and Croatia (Franjo Tudjman-President of Croatia) and the Contact Group Nations (United States, Britain, France, Germany, and Russia and the European Union Special Negotiator). Amongst other, DPA has divided Bosnia in two parts (Serbian Republic with Serb majority and Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina with Bosnian and Croat majority). It is important to mention that Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina is then divided in ten Cantons. Most of them are with Bosnian majority, but some of them are also with Croat majority, mainly in southern Bosnia.

DPA has indeed stopped the armed conflict in Bosnia, but it did not resolve the ethnic tensions that where still more then obvious in Bosnia. Milestone of ethnical and religious division is the education in Bosnia. At the moment there are three different curriculums active in Bosnian primary schools: Bosnian, Croatian and Serbian. Radušić (2009) writes that there are no teaching plans and programs at the state level, but only at the Entity level (Radušić, 2009:2). Radušić (2009) was speaking about the “National groups of subject (History, Mother Language, Geography and Religious lectures)”.

This is to show that conflict and ethnical division are still present and that there is still danger of another armed conflict. Since none of the three sides in conflict could agree about to which Entity Brčko will belong, the final decision for Brčko was sent to international arbitration. Brčko was firstly placed under international supervision in 1997. Finally, in 1999 Brčko was declared to be under the exclusive sovereignty of Bosnia and Herzegovina and was finally inaugurated on March 8, 2000. So, Brčko district has not been appointed to any entity and from the eyes of international community and local politicians it is seen as an example of co-existence of all three main ethnicities that live here.

Introduction to the issue area

As already mentioned the ethnic tensions in Brčko is still a phenomena that keeps Brčko and the rest of Bosnia and Herzegovina going forward towards EU integrations since it has great influence on politics in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Ethnic tensions are being fueled by State and local politicians with the aim to keep them in the ruling places. If we take the high unemployment (even poverty) in consideration and ethnic tensions fueled by the politicians we can see that new conflict is more than possible. Being affected by ethnic tensions and what it produces in my everyday life I have decided to implement a research that would give an answer to the question: is a new conflict possible in Bosnia and Herzegovina and could Brčko be the trigger to it?

As already mentioned, by the DPA, Brčko was not assigned to any Entity and because of the big number of returnees; one could argue that it is the only multi ethnic municipality in Bosnia and Herzegovina (including maybe Mostar). I believe that this research is important since Brčko is the only multi ethnic municipality in Bosnia and Herzegovina and it reflects the ethnic relations in whole Bosnia and Herzegovina. So, if the conflict starts here, most probably it will start in Bosnia and Herzegovina and then in the region.

Professor Moor (2007) argued that there are 3 main reasons that the project called Brčko would fail:

1. Electoral system and veto procedures,
2. Indirect election of District mayor preventing voters to elect them
3. Veto provisions into the Assembly voting procedures based on ethnicity (Moore, 2007).

The aim of this research is to identify possible triggers for new conflict in Brčko and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Context information


Brčko district before the war was a multiethnic municipality with 87,332 inhabitants, whereof in 1991lived: 38,771 (44%) Muslims (today known as Bosniaks), 18,133 (21%) Serbs, 22,163 (25%) Croats, and 8,265 (10%) designated themselves as belonging to some "other" ethnic group.(Statistical department of Bosnia and Herzegovina, 1991:11).

Starting and end of armed conflict in Brčko:

Even months before the official start of war people have arranged defending of their villages by civilians with arms. Villages where mostly mono ethnic, so every nationality arranged guarding their villages by them self. Yugoslav Folks Army has in summer of1991 in-grounded their facilities in the town of Brčko. (Military in Yugoslavia was always in middle of each town). They have protected them self against own town and people they should protect. Formal start of war was blowing up two bridges on river Sava and border between Bosnia and Croatia in Brčko on the morning of 30 May1992.Brčkowas strategic connection between east and west parts of so called Serbian territory. During a first year of war in Brčko has opened concentration camps and executed civilians where only in 1992 994 civilians were killed by Serbian army. In total almost 1900 civilians in town has been killed during war in Brčko under Serbian control.

At this stage it is important to mention that the eventual ethnic conflict in Brčko might cause the escalation of conflict in the whole region in case Republic of Srpska, an entity in Bosnia, decide to take steps to be recognized as own state even, if it would only be recognized by Serbia and maybe Russia.

Political challenges for Brčko district

After the final arbitrary decision Brčko was meant to be an example of ethnical co- existence in Bosnia. Prof. Adam Moore from the UCLA argues that Brčko is a remarkably successful peace building story and that thousands of Bosnians and Croats have returned to their pre-war homes and Serbs from Croatia and Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina have moved to Brčko (Moore, 2007). He says that Brčko was designed with the aim of achieving political and social integration of ethnically divided territory (Moore, 2011). However, Moore (2011) gave three reasons why Brčko project might fail: 1. Electoral system and veto procedures, 2. indirect election of District mayor preventing voters to elect themayorand3.Veto provisions into the Assembly voting procedures based on ethnicity (Moore, 2011:12).

Another challenge for Brčko’s peace is the growing corruption that is evident in all aspects of life, such as employment, inefficient administration and other. In the International Crisis Group report (2011) it is said that the Corruption in Brčko is endemic, evident in hiring and tendering procedures, and threatening to destroy the district economically from within (International Crisis Group report, 2011).In this report it also said that Brčko’s system of ethnic quotas of 4-4-2 (ethnical division of employment places, money distribution - 4 Bosnians, 4 Serbs-2 Croats) has supported the corruption. Political parties have employed friends and relatives regardless of their professional background (International Crisis Group report, 2011).

Partial success of the institution of the High Representative in Brčko was removing nationalistic signs that where present during the war: like adopting the education system suiting all, removing street signs with the names of nationalistic leaders, putting both letters officially recognized in Bosnia on the street signs and other. By implementing the decisions and not living them to local authorities High representative has created the idea that he is the local Government. Jeffrey (2006) says that many local civil society actors

(Such as returnee associations, youth NGOs and pensioner groups) viewed the OHR as the local state on account of its authority to pass and implement laws and shape the conduct of the new District institutions (Jeffrey, 2006:223).

One could argue that during the era of Yugoslavia ethnic differences where pushed under the carpet and that Yugoslav nation was promoted. Varshney (2009) argues that totalitarian regimes push ethnic diversity under the surface and that this often increases the chances of accumulated outburst (Varshney, 2009). It could be argued that political elites in Yugoslavia have used the issue that some ethnicities have felt undermined in Yugoslavia to start a war. Varshney (2009) also argues that ethnicities are often used to gain political power and draw funds from the state and that is why ethnic conflicts happen (Bates, 1974, 1983; Chandra, 2004; Hechter, 1986; Rabushka and Shepsle, 1972 in Varshney, 2009). Oberschal (1978) presents five theories about new wars. Especially applicable for Bosnia is the Identity Politics theory. Oberschal (1978) argues that: Violence breaks out during ethnic rivalry over control of territory and governance amid exaggerated fears of extinction (Oberschal, 1978). If we take these arguments in consideration and analyze political discourse in Bosnia we can assume that new conflict in Bosnia is more than possible.

Aims of research and research questions

The main aim of this research is to identify possible triggers for starting a new armed conflict in Brčko and Bosnia and Herzegovina, supported by political discourse of international and local politicians and other stakeholders.

Questions that will lead this research are:

- How do political elites in Bosnia and Herzegovina mobilize ethnicities to support elite’s aims?
- How does education system support ethnic segregation in Bosnia and Herzegovina


Methodology that I will use in this research paper is content analysis of texts and media content with interviews of local authorities. Texts and media content will provide me with information about the ethnic relations in Brčko and how the local politicians’ influence it.I will also examine the content of international documents related to Brčko in order to examine foreign stakeholder ideas and influence on peace building in Brčko. The first step in this research will be collecting the relevant documents, such as DPA, decisions about the education system in Bosnia and Herzegovina, school text books from the “National group of subjects” and media content with interviews with local and international stakeholders. The most proper method would be to interview local and international stakeholders myself, but considering the time factor I believe this is not realistic. Second step will be the analysis of the information that I receive from above mentioned content. I will analyze them according to the value system presented in the documentation and media content. Finally, the third step will be writing the research.

Alan Bryman (2004) defines content analysis as an approach to the analysis of documents and texts (which may be printed or visual) that seek to quantify content in terms of predetermined categories and in a systematic and replicable manner (Bryman, 2004).

Different interviews and documentation will give me insight in the political discourse in currant Bosnia and analyzing interviews from international officials will give me insight about foreign efforts to establish and maintain peace in Bosnia and where Bosnia finds itself world’s political map.

Firstly, I will research internet and other sources for theories about political systems, ethnicities and ethnical conflict. This will allow me to compare theory and practice in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Since Bosnia and Herzegovina is not the only country struggling with the issue of ethnic tensions there are many researches implemented in other countries, as well as Bosnia, and many different theories about ethnic relations where developed over the time, so it is useful to see how they are applicable in Bosnian context. In order to provide myself with the relevant literature I will use University library and its electronic recourses, other internet recourses and local library in Brčko.

Secondly, from internet and local media I will collect relevant articles and media content and connect it with theories. I believe that this methodology will help me to answer research questions. Since the media in Bosnia is also ethnically and politically divided I will collect information from media from all three sides.

In every day politics local politicians are arguing that Brčko as a local community has done the most in terms of peace building in Bosnia, still the situation in the field is different. Politics in Brčko is ethnically divided; almost all political parties are ethnically colored and oriented and are counting on votes from their ethnical group. In the latter text I will give examples from the interviews where local political elites discuss ethnical relations in Bosnia, give their views on them belonging to Bosnian state and how they believe the life of ethnicities should function.

In this research I will analyze values and concepts presented from the local political elites and its influence on citizens of Brčko.

Data collection

In order to enquire relevant information in terms of ethnic conflict theories and comparing different experiences, theories and countries I have used the Dalarna University Library and town Library in Brčko. Those two sources have provided me with enough relevant literature to gain enough insight in theoretical accomplishments concerning the topic of research.



ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Buch)
Institution / Hochschule
Högskolan Dalarna
Disrtict Brcko Bosnia and Hercegovina




Titel: The Importance of the Brcko District in Bosnia Herzegovina