March 1st marks Bosnia's Independence Day declared 29 years ago, when the majority of its citizens voted in a referendum and chose a sovereign and independent Bosnia and Herzegovina, the state of equal peoples and citizens.
Bosnia declared its independence in 1992, with a 63.4 percent voter turnout and 99.7 percent of the votes in favour of the country declaring independence from what was then called the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (SFRY).
On March 3, the first Chairman of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina Alija Izetbegovic declared the independence of what was initially called the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina, which changed into Bosnia and Herzegovina after the signing of the Dayton Peace Agreement (DPA) which ended the 1992-95 war that followed soon after the secession from Yugoslavia.
On April 7, 1992, the United States and then European Economic Community recognised Bosnia as an independent state, and the country joined the United Nations on May 22.
Bosniak and Croat members of the Presidency, Sefik Dzaferovic and Zeljko Komsic, conveyed a message on this occasion.
“Thanks to the legacy of the March 1, Bosnia today is an independent and internationally recognized country, becoming part of the European and Euro-Atlantic family, as a global symbol of security and prosperity,” said Dzaferovic.
“The future of our country lies in integration, connection, understanding and joint efforts to provide the generations to come with conditions for building a society based on European values and standards, in which dialogue and mutual respect for our differences will be the foundation of the betterment for all,” he added.
However, the country remains divided on this celebration. Since 1992, the holiday is being observed only in one of Bosnia's two semi-autonomous regions, the Bosniak-Croat shared Federation (FBiH).
The other half of the country, the Serb-majority Republika Srpska (RS) entity, does not.
Chairman and Serb member of Bosnia's tripartite Presidency, Milorad Dodik, who is elected in Republika Srpska, reiterated this year again that this cannot be a holiday in this part of the country.
But, acting on an appeal by a group of RS National Assembly members in 2017, who challenged the constitutionality of March 1st as Independence Day and November 25 as the Statehood Day, the Constitutional Court of BiH ruled that both holidays were in line with the Constitution and that did not violate international conventions.
Dodik said the Constitutional Court can make a decision on that as many times as it wants but that he will not implement them.
Due to the divisions, the holiday is a non-working day only in the FBiH, while in the RS it is usual working day.