The Bosnian conflict claimed at least 100,000 lives. But it also created 2.2 million refugees and displaced people, that is half the pre-war population. A right to return was promised by the Dayton peace accord 15 years ago but many homes remain abandoned.
Bosnian authorities have said they need 500 million euros over the next four years to be able to rehouse 150,000 people, eager to return home.
Under Dayton, Bosnia was divided into two separate entities – a Muslim-Croat federation and the Serb Republic known as the Republika Srpska. As a result, people moved, according to their ethnic identity, not wanting to stay in a zone that was no longer their own.
What is more, half a million Bosnian refugees still live outside the country. While some fled the war, those who have left more recently, mainly the young, are looking for a better life. Bosnia Herzigovina’s finances are in tatters.
Last year, the economy shrank more than 3 per cent, compared to a rise of 5.4 per cent in 2008. The GDP per capita is around a tenth of the European average. As for unemployment, it is over 40 per cent.
A highly complex political structure complete with a rotating presidency, as well as regular reports of widespread corruption, don’t help Bosnia’s plight. The economic crisis has only made matters worse.
The country remains hugely reliant on aid. The main donors are the EU and the US. But the international perception of Bosnia is so negative that foreign investors do not want to take the risk of placing their cash there. A brighter future for Bosnians seeking to return home looks a long way off.