Return to Jajce and Travnik
Return to Jajce and Travnik
Table of Contents
  1. Executive Summary
Changing Dynamics in the Western Balkans
Changing Dynamics in the Western Balkans

Return to Jajce and Travnik

Croat-controlled Jajce and Bosniac-controlled Travnik are both municipalities to which displaced persons who do not belong to the majority ethnic group have been returning in substantial numbers.

Executive Summary

Croat-controlled Jajce and Bosniac-controlled Travnik are both municipalities to which displaced persons who do not belong to the majority ethnic group have been returning in substantial numbers.  Some 5,000 Bosniacs have returned to Jajce (pre-war population, 44,900) and 2,500 Croats have returned to Travnik (pre-war population, 70,400) since the Dayton Peace Agreement (DPA) came into force.  These 7,500 “minority returns” constitute nearly 20 per cent of  the total estimated 40,000 minority returns throughout the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (Bosnia), although the combined current populations of Jajce and Travnik (less than 75,000) account for less than 3 percent of the Federation’s current population. These two municipalities in the Middle Bosnia Canton thus may be considered successful examples of minority return, if not yet reintegration.  Nevertheless, at different times and to varying degrees, the authorities in Jajce and Travnik have obstructed return movements.

In both municipalities, as throughout the Middle Bosnia Canton, politics is dominated by the nationalist parties, the Croat HDZ (which has a narrow majority in the Jajce municipal council) and the Bosniac SDA (which has a large majority in the Travnik municipal council). 

To date the return process has taken a number of different forms: pilot projects, a negotiated cantonal return plan, and movements led by displaced persons themselves, so-called spontaneous returns.  Both pilot projects -- which were agreed at Dayton in 1995 -- were fulfilled early in 1996 as some 200 Bosniac families returned to Jajce and 300 Croat families returned to Travnik (200 more than mandated by the pilot project).

Orchestrated violence greeted hundreds of Bosniacs who sought to return to Jajce in August 1997.  The combination of high-level and immediate political intervention, active steps by the Nato-led forces to re-establish a secure environment, and a prompt and thorough investigation by the UN International Police Task Force (IPTF) succeeded in restarting the return process.  IPTF’s investigation found that the demonstrations had been directed by the local HDZ party, and led to the removal of the Jajce police chief.  However, the leaders who masterminded the violence remain in power today.

Following the August 1997 violence, the late Deputy High Representative Gerd Wagner brokered agreements with all 11 municipalities in the Middle Bosnia Canton to kick-start minority return. Though valuable as an expression of political intent, the resulting Cantonal Return Plan has suffered from slow donor response and failure to make any provision for Serb returns.  Displaced persons who seek to return continue to face obstructionism, albeit less blatant than in 1996 and 1997.

In Jajce the municipal authorities have registered only 700 returnees, leaving the majority in limbo, without status or entitlement to benefits such as health care.  While Bosniac officials have recently begun to work in the municipal offices, they have not been given substantive work and the municipal authorities have clearly failed to make the atmosphere conducive to non-Croats.  Symbols of the Croat Republic of Herceg-Bosna, declared illegal in various agreements signed by HDZ authorities, are everywhere and the local HDZ headquarters is situated in the municipality building. 

HDZ officials continually cite Travnik as an illustration of intolerance towards Croats.  This is a result of a string of violent incidents there, including murders, in the late summer and autumn of 1997.  Despite high-level attention and IPTF support, the murder investigation has failed to yield any suspects.  That said, most international officials in Travnik doubt that the murders were ethnically-motivated. Since September 1997, Croat and Bosniac police have patrolled together wearing the same uniforms.  However, separate, informal chains of command continue to undermine the operations of a genuine joint police. The HDZ’s proposed solution for Travnik is to restructure the municipality along ethnic lines, replicating the division of Mostar into six municipalities, three with a Croat majority and three with a Bosniac majority.

In both Jajce and Travnik parallel municipal institutions remain in place and education is segregated.  In both, double-occupancy (the occupancy of two or more homes by a family unit which pre-war occupied only one home) is a widespread problem, and non-governmental organisations and international agencies have failed to monitor let alone systematically address the problem. The Cantonal Interior Ministry remains divided with separate Bosniac and Croat offices.

Jajce has received approximately 7 million DM  and Travnik 8 million DM in housing reconstruction aid.  This is considerably less than similar municipalities elsewhere where there have been fewer returns.  Aid to returnees in Jajce has been restricted owing to the uncooperative attitude of the municipal authorities, yet donors should be able to target their assistance so as to support return without strengthening the authorities.

The report ends with three pages of recommendations which, if implemented, could help ease reintegration of minority communities and facilitate further returns.

Sarajevo, 3 June 1998

Changing Dynamics in the Western Balkans

This week on War & Peace, Olga Oliker talks to Crisis Group expert Marko Prelec about the precarious situation in the Western Balkans, as Serb separatism in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the frozen Kosovo-Serbia dispute continue to stoke regional instability.

The Western Balkans, a region defined in part by not being in the European Union, also contains several countries that were devastated by war in the 1990s. Now it faces new troubles, driven in part by the legacies of the old. Bosnia and Herzegovina is confronted with calls for secession in the autonomous Serb-dominated region, Republika Srpska, as well as the ongoing electoral grievances of its Croat minority. Meanwhile, efforts to resolve Kosovo’s dispute with Serbia over its independence have come to a standstill, leaving minority communities on both sides of the border vulnerable.

This week on War & Peace, Olga Oliker talks to Marko Prelec, Crisis Group’s Consulting Senior Analyst for the Balkans, about why ethnic tensions persist in the region and whether there is any risk of a return to conflict. They discuss the prospects for European integration, asking whether the promise of EU membership remains an effective incentive for resolving these longstanding disputes. They also consider what impact Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has had for stability in the Western Balkans, a region where painful memories of war are still very salient today.



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For more of Crisis Group’s analysis, make sure to check out our Balkans regional page and keep an eye out for our upcoming report on the risk of instability in the Western Balkans.

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