Bosnia and Herzegovina on Wednesday inaugurated the members of its new tripartite presidency, which for the first time in over a decade is dominated by non-ethnonationalist leaders.
It also marks the first time a woman has been elected to the country’s top office.
The three officials, elected as representatives of Bosnia’s three main ethnic groups — Bosniaks, Serbs, and Croats — took their oaths inside Sarajevo’s Presidency building before several dozen ambassadors and politicians.
The politicians inaugurated Wednesday were elected in a 2 October general election, each of them winning a four-year mandate.
The three are Bosniak Denis Bećirović and Bosnian Croat Željko Komšić, from the multi-ethnic centre-left SDP and DF political parties, and Željka Cvijanović from the ethnonationalist Bosnian Serb party SNSD.
Cvijanović said in her inaugural speech that she was “assuming the post with good intentions and with hope that we will work for the benefit of both entities and all citizens,” regardless of their ethnicity.
Bećirović — another newcomer in the role together with Cvijanović — pledged he would focus on fighting poverty and the country’s massive brain drain. Both issues have been plaguing Bosnia for decades.
Komšić, who is now in his second consecutive mandate and fourth term as a presidency member overall, has indicated that NATO membership will be his “first priority”, adding that the country’s EU path could take a backseat following the authorities’ failure to implement a number of key reforms over the years.
Bosnia has been a perennial prospective member of NATO and the EU, with accession to both stalling due to internal disagreements and political blockades.
The presidency is part of the complex administration established by the Dayton Peace Accords that ended Bosnia’s 1992-1995 war by creating Bosniak-Croat and Serb-majority administrative units, or entities, joined by umbrella state-level institutions.
The office holds little power, but it can set the tone of the country’s general policy, especially in foreign relations.
Its three members make decisions by consensus, with one member acting as the chairperson, rotating in the position every eight months.
A bid by nationalists to divide Bosnia along ethnic lines was at the core of the war that killed some 100,000 people and left millions as refugees, displaced, and homeless.
The ethnic divisions are commonly used to drive a political wedge between the three main ethnic groups despite Western efforts at reconciliation, with recent crises deemed as the worst since the end of the war in 1995.