Home Domestic Affairs From truce line to line of uncertainty of Bosnia and Herzegovina

From truce line to line of uncertainty of Bosnia and Herzegovina


More than 15 thousand people whose 11 thousand property lots are DIVIDED by RATHER imaginary Inter-Entity Boundary Line (IEBL) between Republika Srpska and Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina have been waiting for 17 years for local authorities and executive power as well as for international institutions in BiH to precise where is the 1,173 meters long boundary line that separates two entities. Ever since the General Frame Work Agreement for PeAce in BiH was signed, entities’ governments and Council of Ministers in BiH have not even provided the start of the work of the commission, which should describe and mark where one entity ends and the other beginS. Meanwhile, people living at 50 meters wide border strip pay taxes, get personal documents and refer to the entity they agree about with geodetic administrations ad their regional units – without any valid map, which would clearly show where they belong.

By: Andrea Vuković

Playing the state

Vinko Stojić, refugee from Vozuća, is the breadwinner of his family and he works on seven dunam of land in settlement Čopori in Municipality of  Vukosavlje. Ten years ago he moved to the region from the refugee settlement in Kotorsko. It is much better in Čopori, for him, for his and another five families he brought along from refugees. There are poor people, but the ones who cared for work, are well – as well as anywhere else in BiH, in the world. Still, Čopori, as well as the entire area of Odžak and Vukosavlje, became a famous point of the BiH map, the one that marks RepublikaSrpska and Federation of BiH, to be more precise, the map where border line of the RepublikaSrpska and Federation of BiH has been drawn by 1mm thick highlighter in travelers’ map.

Stojić has no problems with neighbors on the other side of still imaginary line. They communicate, help each other.

As soon as he moved, he told them: ‘We can only be good neighbors and cooperators and not to be angry with each other’ and – marked the line.

‘When we came, when we dag here, cast foundations. I went home in the evening, and machinery from Federation came to plough. I went to cut laths. I made line starting from the cemetery and stabbed the laths. Tomorrow, I came and they asked what happened and who it was. I said I had not had any idea that some surveyors from Banjaluka came. They asked where they were. I told them that they had come and gone. They asked what they had told me. I said they had said if we touched it, the entity line would be by gas station. They said they could not do that. I said I had no idea, that I had been told so and to inform them if they touched anything. Since then, no one touched anything’, says Stojić.

No one in BiH has not almost touched anything ever since the map and boundary lines dated 1996 and 1997 were drawn by the United States of America Defense Ministry a bit precisely and form 600 meters defined by the Dayton Peace Agreement decreased to 50 meters.


‘The map from Dayton has essentially served to make peace, to stop the war. It has been created on a map, which, in geodetic sense, is not serious. There, line is 1 mm thick, which represents 600 m, and these 600 m was left to be detailed in the next phase on the map of ratio 1:50 000, which was made by American military institute. The line has been presented by line 1mm thick, and this is 50m now in real. This line, in fact, covered 50 m along its entire materialization on the map, 50 m wide on field. This is a starting base for sides to make an agreement – the essence is to get cadastral plans, owners’ parts, and cadastral units, to define ownership of lots. It was necessary to transfer the line from topographic map, where no owner of the lot is defined, to cadastral plan,’ explains Velibor Vitor, Head of Department for the Geodetic-Information Systems (GIS) and Administration of Information Systems (ISU) in the Republic Administration of Geodetic and Property Affairs in Republika Srpska.


The only agreement between Republika Srpska and Federation of BiH on this issue is the agreement between the two Directors of geodetic administrations to hire the Public Enterprise Geodetic Institute Sarajevo to mark the line. Institution started with coordinates in accordance with lines. It turned out to be – wrong.

‘First, they applied dots and then connected them with lines. Instead, maybe, to draw lines first and then calculate coordinates afterwards. They calculated coordinates first and then draw the lines. They admitted they had made a mistake. They had an idea to read from the paper literary, so the border goes from one side of the river to another instead of going in and out of river, regardless the flow. This was our biggest difference. When I worked on this transformation and digitalization and overlapped with the line drawn by the Institute, the biggest mistakes were at rivers’, says Vitor.


The line drawn by the Geodetic Institute Sarajevo, which was pretty inaccurate, and in some instances wrong, is used for only approximate definition of competence per principle if the most lot surface is in the Federation, the lot belongs to the Federation, and if the most lot surface is in Republika Srpska, the lot belongs to Republika Srpska.

Apart from uncertainty and different data, a separate problem is different cadastral registries. For a large number of municipalities, there are cadastral plans not in official use, i.e. parties have never declared whether the plan contains their lot or not. And if the plan is not in an official use, nothing could be transferred to it. So, today we are still using Austrian-Hungarian example, the pan that has no use value on field, inaccurate plan, created in 1800’s, in A3 size, yellow, damaged, erasable. New measurement dated 1987 still is not officially used since it has not been presented to the lots owners.

Specialists from Republika Srpska made detailed description of IEBL in 1999, and ten years later they also made their map with marked IEBL.

‘When we worked on the project, we imagined we had not had that line we had used in practice for 10 years. All topographic maps in ratio 1:50 000 were supposed to be scanned. There was digitalization of the line performed and we got it in UTM projection and in vector format. Afterwards, all you have to do is to list the formats to get those coordinates, provided that fact to go by river wherever it is going by river’, says Head of Republic Administration of Geodetic and Property Affairs in RepublikaSrpska.

Still, none of proposed solutions (starting with topographic map by American Defence Ministry to maps drawn at the Republic Administration of Geodetic and Property Affairs in Republika Srpska) has no legal effect and cannot be seen as meeting responsibility of the Dayton Peace Agreement. The only such documents are Dayton map and agreement on exchange of certain territories, so that the work, once it starts, could again start – from Dayton.

The only valid, agreed and approved document which solves the issue of at least a part of IEBL defines the line in the area of settlements called Dobrinja I and IV, which was verified by Diarmuid Sheridan, the Independent International Arbiter, in 2001. So, today, the property is defined only in Sarajevo settlement Dobrinja, one part of BiH, where the line was marked – after the gas station and motel, by the fence, there is the border – which cuts apartments so that kitchens are in the Federation and rooms are in Republika Srpska.


Marking IEBL in line with Annex 2 of the General Frame Agreement for Piece in BiH is responsibility of the Governments in Republika Srpska, Federation of BiH and BiH Council of Ministers, which was supposed to form the committee to prepare detailed technical document on marking the line. Any possible agreement should have been made official by detailed precise description of the boundary line and marking inter-entity line, which have to be approved by international factor. Back then, it was responsibility of the IFOR and SFOR, today EUFOR and NATO, being legal successors of the former international forces.

‘As we learned, there was no significant effect in forming the commission. Questions relating to this delay and documents on this subject should be sent to the address of the BiH Council of Ministers and entity Government’, this is a part of short information delivered to the TheSrpska Times Magazine from the EUFOR.


As soon as Dayton was signed in 1996 and in 1997, the entities’ Governments agreed on corrections of the line to approximately 60 km2, approved by the IFOR. Joint commission that should define and mark the line in field, as well as to prepare agreed technical document with precise detailed description of the IEBL has not been formed so far. In April 2007, the entity geodetic administrations wrote to the BiH Ministry of Civil Affairs and proposed to discuss the problem and start activities for solving issues of the IEBL, complaining about the problems they are facing because the line had not been marked yet nor defined in field, nor in cadastral plans.

‘It is crucial to define the IEBL precisely so that the citizens of Republika Srpska and Federation of BiH know in which entity, i.e. which unit of the local self-administration they should acquire their rights and obligations in comparison to their real estate such as: property tax, answers to citizens’ requests, personal documentation… Defining the IEBL in fact would define jurisdiction rationemateriae and rationeterritori for work and function of the authorities at the entity and local level ‘, states, among other things, the notification signed by then Directors of the Republic Administration of Geodetic and Property-Legal Affairs and Federal Administration of Property-Legal Affairs, after which – nothing was solved..

‘Elegant’ solution

So, jurisdiction of entities in disputable parts of the IEBL is defined in individual cases. None of these cases forecasts the final line in field. To make it simpler, what you can find in Republika Srpska today could easily be found in Federation of BiH after the agreement, and vice versa.

‘This issue could have a very elegant solution. Where entire village is in the Federation and only one house in Republika Srpska, why doesn’t that single house goes there, too? Approach is complete from the Federation and vice versa, an entire village is directed towards Republika Srpska. This is concrete. Once you go on field and come with some proposed coordinate, if agreed by both parties, this could function as law’, suggests Vitor.



Demanding, but essentially rather technical issue, no one in Bosnia and Herzegovina is not in any condition to solve it for 17. Politically, everything is very clear – state Bosnia and Herzegovina consists of two entities: Republika Srpska and Federation of BiH. Where one has ended and the other started for 17 years is playing with the state, its entities and its citizens.


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