On Wednesday, Bosnia and Herzegovina inaugurated the members of its new three-member presidency, which for the first time in more than a decade is dominated by non-ethnonationalist leaders.
It also marks the first time a woman has been elected to a leading position in the country.
The three officials, elected as representatives of the three main ethnic groups in Bosnia — Bosniaks, Serbs and Croats — were sworn in at the Presidency building in Sarajevo in front of dozens of ambassadors and politicians.
The politicians who were inaugurated on Wednesday were elected in the general election on October 2, and each won a four-year term.
The three of them are Denis Bećirović, a Bosniak, and Željko Komšić, a Bosnian Croat, from the multi-ethnic center-left political parties SDP and DF, and Željka Cvijanović from the Bosnian Serb ethno-nationalist party SNSD.
In her inaugural speech, Cvijanović said that she “enters this position with good intentions and the hope that we will work for the benefit of both entities and all citizens”, regardless of their nationality.
Bećirović — another newcomer to the role along with Cvijanović — promised to focus on fighting poverty and the country’s massive brain drain. Both issues have plagued Bosnia for decades.
Komšić, now in his second consecutive term and fourth overall as a member of the Presidency, indicated that NATO membership would be his “first priority”, adding that the country’s path to the EU could take a backseat after the government’s failure to implemented a number of key reforms over the years.
Bosnia has been a potential member of NATO and the EU for many years, and accession to both was delayed due to internal disagreements and political blockades.
The Presidency is part of the complex administration established by the Dayton Peace Accords, which ended the war in Bosnia from 1992 to 1995 by creating Bosniak-Croat and Serb-majority administrative units, or entities, merged into state-level umbrella institutions.
The office has few powers, but it can set the tone of the country’s general policy, especially in foreign relations.
Its three members make decisions by consensus, and one member serves as chairman, rotating in this position every eight months.
The attempt by nationalists to divide Bosnia along ethnic lines was at the heart of a war that left around 100,000 dead and millions more refugees, displaced and homeless.
Ethnic divisions are commonly used to drive a political wedge between the three main ethnic groups despite Western reconciliation efforts, with recent crises seen as the worst since the end of the war in 1995.