Border Issues in the Balkans: The Case of Bosnia and Herzegovina

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More than 30 years have passed since the breakup of Yugoslavia in the Balkan geography. However, there are still ongoing border problems between the states that gained their independence after the breakup of Yugoslavia.

Among the border disputes in the region, the problems between Serbia and Kosovo, which declared its independence in 2008, come to the fore. But apart from this, there are also many other border disputes between states in the Balkans, such as the disputes between Croatia and Montenegro on the Prevlaka Peninsula and the border issues between Croatia and Serbia waiting to be resolved.[1]

Bosnia and Herzegovina, another Balkan country, also has some border disputes in its relations with its neighbors. Border issues came to the fore in Bosnia and Herzegovina, with the Bosniak Member of the Presidential Council of Bosnia and Herzegovina Denis Becirovic expressing one of the border disputes the country is experiencing. One of them is the disputes between Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia, which have not yet been resolved, which gained importance especially at the point of the Drina River. The disputed areas that caused the said dispute between the two countries are those around the “Zvornik” and “Bajina Basta” hydroelectric power plants in the lower part of the Drina River, the area on the Beograd-Bar Railway and the section around the Municipality of Priboj.[2] When these areas are taken into account, it can be said that the disputed locations between the parties cover approximately 40 kilometers.

As it can be seen, the disputed locations are regions with significant benefits both in terms of energy needs in the way of hydroelectric power plants and in the way of being a means of connecting Belgrade to the city of Bar, which is an important port of Montenegro, in terms of railway. In this context, Serbia has requested the conclusion of the relevant border disputes.[3] However, when it comes to 2023, it is seen that the said disputes have not been resolved to a certain extent. In fact, this issue was brought to the agenda again by Denis Becirovic, Bosniak Member of the Presidential Council of Bosnia and Herzegovina in February 2023, and it was stated that the signing of the border agreement between Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia was a priority issue since it would be in the interests of both countries.[4]

In addition, Bosnia and Herzegovina also has border dispute with Croatia, another border neighbor. The related problem is that the maritime border between the parties was determined temporarily in 1999; however, it is linked to the Neum Agreement, which was not ratified due to discussions over ownership. Except for the issue between Kosovo and Serbia, some of the border disputes in the Balkans and especially Bosnia and Herzegovina with their neighbors involve technical issues and can only be resolved within this framework.

However, each of the Balkan countries needs to resolve their border disputes in order to achieve their own foreign policy goals and to provide stability in their relations with the states of the region. In addition, it is seen that the mutual border problems of the Balkan states, which gained their independence with the breakup of Yugoslavia, especially Bosnia and Herzegovina, date back to the 1990s. In this sense, the long period that has passed creates difficulty in the face of a final solution to these issues, a significant part of which has still not been resolved.

In the past, there have been calls by the European Union (EU) authorities that border problems should be resolved. In this context, it can be said that the previous European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker’s statement that the Western Balkan countries should solve their border disputes before joining the EU, by referring to the border dispute between Croatia and Slovenia,[5] remains valid. Because the unresolved disputes between the states continue the possibility of the states to experience tension with each other in the future, even if not yet.

As a result, it is possible to foresee that some of the border problems in the Balkans, including Bosnia and Herzegovina, have not been resolved and that a solution will not be provided between the states in the near future.

[1] “Border conflicts in the Balkans”, GIS Reports,, (Date of Accession: 10.03.2023).

[2] “Serbia-BiH border demarcation: A contentious matter?”, European Western Balkans,, (Date of Accession: 10.03.2023).

[3] Ibid.

[4] “BiH Presidency Member: The Conclusion of the agreement on the border between BiH and Serbia is a Priority Issue”, Sarajevo Times,, (Date of Accession: 10.03.2023).

[5] “West Balkan states must solve border disputes before joining EU: Juncker”, Reuters,, (Date of Accession: 10.03.2023).

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