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Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina

Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina

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Bosnian Croats, the smallest of the country’s three main communities, complain of a lack of political power. Many left Bosnia during the war and a majority settled in Croatia. In what is now Republika Srpska,  only 5-10% are thought to have returned. Several estimates have been made, that range from 434 000 to 570 000, significantly less than in 1991 census when there were 760 000.
In October 2013, according to preliminary results of the 2013 census,  the Federation had an estimated population of 2 371 603. Data on ethnicity will be published in 2014, however, since many Croats have left, fewer are expected than in 1991. This might make the Croat demand for equal treatment more difficult to achieve, and it could be that Bosnia is seen to be turning into a bi-national state. The 2013 Progress report criticises the new Coordination Body of Ministers of Education of the Cantons with a Croat majority, which may fragment decision-making even more.


In the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), cantons were created by the Bosniak-Croat Washington Agreement of 1994 and then outlined by the Dayton Agreement in 1995. Three of the ten cantons of the Federation have a Croat majority (Posavina, West Herzegovina, and West Bosnia), whereas two (Central Bosnia and Herzegovina-Neretva) are mixed, with legislative protection of the constituent ethnic groups.

According to the preamble of the Constitution of Bosnia and Herzegovina, there are three constituent peoples: Bosniaks, Croats and Serbs. This is repeated in article 1 of the Constitution of the Bosnia and Herzegovina Federation concerning the Bosnians and Croats as constituent peoples. The constitution also specifies the composition and procedures of the Parliamentary Assemblies and of the Governments in order to balance and protect the interests of Bosniaks, Croats and Serbs.

Croatian political parties

The two main Croatian political partiesHDZ and the HDZ 1990 share the common goal of the creation of a new Entity that would be dominated by Croats. The Bosnian Croats have found an ally in Republika Srpska, whose president Milorad Dodik is empowered by any division inside the Federation. There is also a plan to change the set-up of the cantons: notably the fusion of the three southern cantons into one would create a bigger Croatian-dominated territory. Croatia is wary of intervening in Bosnian affairs, but in a common statement of 22 March 2011 on the political crisis in Bosnia, the Croatian president and Prime Minister underlined the territorial integrity of BiH but restated the importance of equality of the three constituent peoples. In December 2013 a poll indicated that a majority of Bosnian Croats support the creation of a third entity in BiH.

Results of the 2010 elections: Zastupnički/Predstavnički dom parlamentarne skupštine Bosne i Hercegovine and Zastupnicki/predstavnicki dom parlamenta Federacije Bosne i Hercegovine.

Last census: Ethnic composition 1991

Further reading: Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina – A Parallel Crisis / International Crisis Group,  28 Sep 2010

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