Country profile - Distinguishing factors (Bosnia and Herzegovina)

SOER 2010 Country profile (Deprecated)
This page was archived on 21 Mar 2015 with reason: A new version has been published
SOER Country profile from Bosnia and Herzegovina
Published: 26 Nov 2010 Modified: 11 May 2020

Geography, size

Bosnia and Herzegovina has a total surface area of 51 209.2 km², composed of 51 197 km² of land and 12.2 km2 of sea (Source: Agency for Statistics of BiH, According to its geographical position on the Balkan Peninsula, it belongs to the Adriatic basin and the Black Sea basin. Therefore, Bosnia and Herzegovina belongs to the Danubian countries group as well as to the Mediterranean countries.

Map of Bosnia and Herzegovina

Bosnia and Herzegovina has common frontiers with the Republic of Croatia (931 km), the Republic of Serbia (375 km) and the Republic of Montenegro (249 km). To the north, BiH has access to the Sava River, and to the south to the Adriatic Sea (23.5 km of sea border). The land is mainly hilly to mountainous, with an average altitude of 500 meters, (0 m at the seacoast and 2 387 m at the highest peak, Maglić mountain). Of the total land area, 5 % is lowlands, 24 % hills, 42 % mountains, and 29 % karst region. Forest lands cover about 2.5 million ha, or 49 % of the total land area, which is among the highest forest coverage in Europe. Forest ecosystems cover 41 % of the territory, and a relatively high number of species are endemic. Bosnia and Herzegovina ranks among the territories with the highest level of biological diversity in Europe. Therefore, forestry in BiH is a very important industrial sector, and the sustainable management of forest resources is a significant factor in environmental, climate and biodiversity protection.

There are seven river basins (Una, Vrbas, Bosna, Drina, Sava, Neretva with Trebišnjica and Cetina), of which 75.5 % belong to the Black Sea catchment region and 24.3 % to the Adriatic Sea catchment. The source fields of surface and ground water are particularly valuable natural resources. There are also numerous river lakes (on the Pliva and Una Rivers) and mountain lakes (in the Dinarides range), as well as thermal and geothermal groundwater resources. Bosnia and Herzegovina is rich in thermal, mineral and thermal-mineral waters.


Climate Characteristics

General climate characteristics of Bosnia and Herzegovina are greatly influenced by characteristics of the Adriatic Sea, local topography - especially the Dinarides Mountains, which are located along the coast and run from the northwest to the southeast parallel to the coast - and atmospheric circulation on a macro scale.

For the reasons mentioned above, the climate varies from a temperate continental climate in the northern Pannonian lowlands along the Sava River and in the foothill zone, to an alpine climate in the mountain regions, and a Mediterranean climate in the coastal and lowland areas of the Herzegovina region in the south and southeast.

Regarding its location and distinct geological and climatic regions, BiH has a particularly rich biodiversity. It has some of the greatest diversity of species of plants and animals in Europe, and it has an extremely high level of diversity of biotopes (habitats), i.e., geodiversity.

It has been predicted that climate change will strongly affect the countries of southern and southeastern Europe (SEE). There is more and more scientific evidence indicating a constant increase of negative climate change impacts on biodiversity and ecosystems, meaning that threats caused by climate change are present in Bosnia and Herzegovina too.

Although the impact of climate change on global biodiversity has been treated in many studies, there are not enough studies that address regional and local impacts of climate change on biodiversity. Few studies on climate change impacts on agriculture and forestry in Bosnia and Herzegovina have been published, while the areas of Bosnia and Herzegovina which are the most sensitive to global climate change are defined by the Strategy for the protection of biodiversity, including the action plan. But models that could be used for the assessment of possible habitat changes within the plant and animal communities in Bosnia and Herzegovina do not yet exist.

Based on existing research findings, the following main types of climate change effects on biodiversity that could be expected in BiH, are the following:  

1. Shift of vegetation zones (layers) in a horizontal and vertical direction,

2. Shift and changes in habitats of individual plant and animal types,

3. Extinction of individual species,

4. Changes in the quality and quantity of the composition of biocenoses,

5. Fragmentation of habitats,

6. Changes in ecosystem function.

Average annual precipitation in BiH is about 1 250 mm which, given that the surface area of BiH is 51 209 km2, amounts to 64 x 109 m3 of water, or 2,030 m3/s. The outflow from the territory of BiH is 1 155 m3/s, or 57 % of total precipitation. However, these volumes of water are not evenly distributed, neither spatially nor temporally. For example, the average annual outflow from the Sava River basin, which has a surface area of 38 719 km2 (75.7 %) in BiH, amounts to 722 m3/s, or 62.5 %, while the outflow from the Adriatic Sea basin, which has a surface area of 12 410 km2 (24.3 %) in BiH, is 433 m3/s, or 37.5 %.



According to the most recent census, which was conducted in 1991, the total population was 4 377 033, and GDP per capita was approximately USD 2 500, placing BiH among medium-income countries. Currently, the population of BiH is estimated at 3 842 942 (as of 30 June 2007; Source: Agency for Statistics of BiH).

At the end of 2000, according to estimates from the statistical institutions, the population of BiH was 3 683 665. In 1991, the age structure of the population of BiH was of the type known as 'verging on stationary-regressive' with an insignificantly narrowed demographic pyramid. According to the same source, the current age structure of the population is similar to that of 1991, but in 2000, the population was of the regressive biological type. Urban population is estimated at 80 % of the total population as a result of mass war-time migration from rural to urban areas. There has been an observable rise in the proportion of people aged over 65 (from 6.4 % to almost 11 % of the total population) and a significant drop in the active working population in the 20-40 age group.

In Bosnia and Herzegovina in 2007, 33 235 babies were born, which indicates a 2.34 % decrease in the birth rate compared to 2006. 33 832 people died, which indicates a 1.84 % increase in mortality compared to 2006. The natural increase in 2007 is negative and amounts to -597, which means that 597 more people died than were born. This is the first time since 1996 that the natural increase is negative (Source: Agency for Statistics of BiH).


Population of Bosnia and Herzegovina according to the 1991 census

Economic Structure

Besides the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina was the most undeveloped republic in former Yugoslavia. The centrally planned economy has resulted in some legacies in the economy. Agriculture was mostly in the private sector, with small and unprofitable agricultural holdings, so most food was imported. Industry was greatly overstaffed, reflecting the rigidity of the planned economy. It hosted a large share of Yugoslavia's defense plants for military reasons, and in that sense, it was in the center of former Yugoslavia.

Three years of the recent war (1992-1995) destroyed the economy and infrastructure in Bosnia and Herzegovina, causing production to plummet by 80 %, unemployment to soar, and the death of about 100 000 people and displacement of half the population.

Bosnia has been facing a dual challenge: not only to recover from the war but also to complete the transition from socialism to capitalism.

With an uneasy peace in place, output recovered in 1996-1999 at high percentage rates from a low base; but output growth slowed in 2000-2002. Part of the lag in output was made up in 2003-2005.

Unfortunately, economic data are of limited use because, although both entities issue figures, national-level statistics are not available. Moreover, official data do not capture the large share of activity that occurs on the black market. The grey market is a notable source of income for Bosnian traders.

The 'konvertibilna marka-KM'[1] (convertible mark or BAM) - the national currency introduced in 1998 - is pegged to the euro, and confidence in the currency and the banking sector has increased. Implementation of privatisation, however, has been slow, and local entities only reluctantly support national-level institutions.

The Central Bank of Bosnia and Herzegovina was established in late 1997, successful debt negotiations were held with the London Club in December 1997, and with the Paris Club in October 1998, and a new currency, the Bosnia and Herzegovina convertible mark, was introduced in mid-1998. In 1999, the Convertible Mark gained wider acceptance, and the Central Bank dramatically increased its reserve holdings.

Banking reform accelerated in 2001 as the payment bureaus from former pre-war Bosnia and Herzegovina were shut down; foreign banks, primarily from western Europe, now control most of the banking sector.

But a sizeable current account deficit and a high unemployment rate remain the two most serious economic problems.

Despite major international aid efforts, the pace of post-war economic recovery has been much slower than expected. GDP by expenditure is estimated at KM 24 161 million in 2007, representing a nominal increase of 14.23 % from 2006 to 2007. Since the war ended, BiH has attracted only around KM 2.1 billion in foreign investment. Economic data are scarce.



The Constitution of Bosnia and Herzegovina is an integral part of the Dayton Peace Agreement from 1995 and has created a specific state comprised of two entities: the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (FB&H) and the Republic of Srpska (RS). Under this constitutional construction, Bosnia and Herzegovina is a sovereign state with a decentralised political and administrative structure.

In accordance with the Dayton Peace Agreement, the State of Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) constitutes two administrative parts, i.e. the two autonomous entities: the Republic of Srpska (RS) and the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (FB&H). In addition, a separate Brcko District (BD) was established within Bosnia and Herzegovina borders.

The region of Brčko, which remained contested after the Dayton Peace Agreement, was settled through international arbitration. Brcko District (BD) was established in March 2000 with powers largely similar to those of the entities. The State of Bosnia and Herzegovina is a central authority, but it has only limited and specific powers, whereas the two entities and BD are politically, administratively, and legally autonomous.

The two entities are asymmetrical in their institutional organisation. FB&H is composed of ten cantons subdivided into 84 municipalities, whereas RS is composed of 64 municipalities and has no cantons.

Since the Dayton Peace Agreement, environmental issues in B&H have been under the responsibility of entity governments. The competent authorities are the Federal Ministry for Tourism and Environment in FB&H, the Ministry for Physical Planning, Civil Engineering and Ecology in RS, and the Department for Communal Works in Government of Brcko District.

At the State level, the Ministry of Foreign Trade and Economic Relations (MOFTER) is responsible for the environment-related activities. This Ministry is responsible for carrying out the tasks related to defining policies and basic principles, coordinating activities and harmonising plans of the entity authorities and bodies at the international level for, among other topics, conservation of the environment, development and use of natural resources.


Transformation from communist to democratic system

Bosnia and Herzegovina was created by dissolution of the former Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in 1992, and became a member of UN in May 1992. It is a well known fact that former socialist block countries had extensive industry with great waste of resources and pollution as well as relatively low per capita income. Former Yugoslavia had, to a certain degree, a better developed market and somewhat more efficient use of resources compared to other European socialist countries. Bosnia and Herzegovina, on the other hand, was a republic with basic industry and energy sectors within the Yugoslavian framework (i.e. with increased resource exploitation and pollution), and was considered undeveloped. Before the Yugoslavian breakdown Bosnia and Herzegovina exported over 50 % of its production to other Yugoslav republics and over 30 % abroad. Bosnia and Herzegovina suffered from four major blows:

(1)     collapse of the socialist system which had a firm grip on Bosnia and Herzegovina,

(2)     loss of market (Bosnia and Herzegovina was a major exporter to Yugoslav republics and other countries)

(3)     the war itself (great destruction and over 50 % of population displaced).

(4)     lack of any international experience and tradition, caused by its central position inside former Yugoslavia (Bosnia and Herzegovina was the only former Yugoslav Republic with no international borders).

Apart from having to recover from these shocks, the country has a very unfavourable heritage from former Yugoslavia:

  • Bosnia and Herzegovina (1990 data) is at the top of the list of energy intensity (amount of energy spent by unit of mass product) and SO2 emissions per capita, two of the basic indicators of development and effects on the environment.
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina had a considerably weaker organisation of environmental protection compared to republics such as Serbia, Croatia and Slovenia.

It is necessary to emphasise the fact that Bosnia and Herzegovina (before the war Socialist Republic Bosnia and Herzegovina) is a centralised republic, with adequate organisation of the state and institutions competent for the implementation of rules. Entities are a completely new category in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the establishment of a governmental structure is still ongoing, a sometimes very painful process in all areas of life, including the process of transformation from communism to democracy.   

Today, Bosnia and Herzegovina is a state comprised of two entities – Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (FB&H) and Republic of Srpska (RS), and one district - Brcko District. The entities have considerable authority and responsibilities for their development. On the level of Bosnia and Herzegovina, i.e. at state level, there is the Council of Ministers with six ministries, as well as a couple of expert state institutions such as the Agency for Statistics, Institute for Standardization, Measurements and Patents, Agency for Telecommunications, etc.

In the environmental sector the Ministry of Foreign Trade and Economic Relations of Bosnia and Herzegovina (MOFTER) has responsibilities for the coordination of activities and international relations.

Since the Dayton Peace Agreement, environmental issues in B&H have been under the responsibility of entity governments. The corresponding authorities are the Ministry of Environment and Tourism in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Ministry of Physical Planning, Civil Engineering and Ecology in the Republic of Srpska, and the Department for Utility Services in the Brcko District. The work of both entity Ministries and the Brcko District Department is governed by the set of environmental laws.



[1] 1 EUR=1.95583 KM



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The country assessments are the sole responsibility of the EEA member and cooperating countries supported by the EEA through guidance, translation and editing.

Filed under: SOER2010
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