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Multinational federalism in Bosnia and Herzegovina

Keil, Soeren (2010) Multinational federalism in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent. (doi:10.22024/UniKent/01.02.94456) (KAR id:94456)

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Bosnia and Herzegovina offers the most remarkable and extensive example of international peace- and state- building in recent times. This thesis will analyse the post-war political system of Bosnia and Herzegovina from the perspective of its federal features. By following the methodological distinction between federalism as an ideology and federation as a state, it will be argued that federalism is not an indigenous ideology of the Bosnian elites, but it was imposed on them by international actors, the results of the war and the circumstances surrounding the peace negotiations. None of the three Bosnian constituent peoples (Bosniaks, Serbs, and Croats) preferred a federal option in 1995. Furthermore, the thesis will demonstrate that as a consequence of this "imposed federalism," the Bosnian parties in post-war Bosnia were not willing to identify with or even accept the new state, and this resulted in a lack of decision-making and political process in the immediate post-war period. Consequently, it was the international community through the Office of the High Representative that had to intervene and take over decision-making competences. Key decisions regarding constitutional reform, identity politics, security questions and fiscal federalism were implemented by the High Representative as a consequence. These decisions have impacted on the relationship between the federal units themselves and between the federal units and the central institutions and this is why Bosnia and Herzegovina can be characterised as an "internationally administrated federation." Categorising Bosnia as a model of "imposed federalism" and "internationally administrated federation" contributes to the acknowledgment that we witness the rise and development of a new model of federalism and federation in Bosnia. The main challenge for the Bosnian model of federalism is that the Bosnian elites have to find a common definition of their state and its nature. The main challenge for the Bosnian federation is the reform and simplification of the political system to abolish discriminatory elements in the institutions and to make the system more flexible so that Bosnia is eventually able to integrate into European structures. The new model of federalism and federation that can be found in Bosnia has to become domesticated as its biggest challenge. However, other countries in the world have undergone similar developments to Bosnia, so the success of Bosnian federalism and federation is not only important for Bosnia and the international actors involved in the state-building and democratisation project, but also for a number of other countries in the world.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
Thesis advisor: Burgess, Michael
Thesis advisor: Bieber, Florian
DOI/Identification number: 10.22024/UniKent/01.02.94456
Additional information: This thesis has been digitised by EThOS, the British Library digitisation service, for purposes of preservation and dissemination. It was uploaded to KAR on 25 April 2022 in order to hold its content and record within University of Kent systems. It is available Open Access using a Creative Commons Attribution, Non-commercial, No Derivatives ( licence so that the thesis and its author, can benefit from opportunities for increased readership and citation. This was done in line with University of Kent policies ( If you feel that your rights are compromised by open access to this thesis, or if you would like more information about its availability, please contact us at and we will seriously consider your claim under the terms of our Take-Down Policy (
Subjects: J Political Science
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Human and Social Sciences > School of Politics and International Relations
SWORD Depositor: SWORD Copy
Depositing User: SWORD Copy
Date Deposited: 17 Nov 2022 16:56 UTC
Last Modified: 17 Nov 2022 16:56 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

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