The European Union urged Bosnia Thursday (26 May) to publish by July the results of a national census, the latest subject of an inter-ethnic dispute but which is considered a crucial step towards EU integration.
Conducted in October 2013, the census is the subject of the latest in a string of disputes in the small Balkan country, which is divided along ethnic lines into two semi-independent entities — one Serb-run and the other Muslim-Croat.
“We consider that a further delay of publishing information would seriously harm the quality of the data, and have an impact on their relevance,” Pieter Everaers, a top official of the EU’s statistics office Eurostat, told reporters.
The only figure that has been revealed so far — that there are 3.8 million Bosnian citizens — was published in November 2013, but even that has been questioned.
Serb and Muslim representatives in the national statistics bureau have failed to agree on how to count non-resident citizens, which could eventually influence the number of members of their communities.
Bosnian Serbs object to including people who fled the country during the 1992-1995 war.
After months of negotiations, the statistics agency last week adopted a methodology in line with EU standards — without agreement from the Serbs.
“It is very important for us to know how many people live in this country, where they live, what they are doing, their age, family status; we are less concerned with what ethnicity or religion they may have,” said Lars-Gunnar Wigemark, head of the EU delegation in Bosnia.
But Bosnian Serb leaders have already warned they will not recognise results based on the methodology that has been adopted.
Bosnia’s last census was conducted in 1991, a year before the beginning of the war that claimed 100,000 lives and left more than half of the country’s pre-war population of 4.4 million homeless.
It is estimated that some 40% of Bosnians are Muslims, 30%t Christian Orthodox Serbs, while some 10% are Christian Catholic Croats.