Sarajevo: Bosnia passed laws on Friday seen as crucial to reviving its European Union accession bid, with Serb, Croat and Muslim leaders agreeing to the first census since 1991 and to a single state-level body to coordinate EU aid programs.
Muslims, Bosnia`s largest ethnic group, feared a census that questioned peoples` ethnicity would cement the effects of wartime ethnic cleansing when half of Bosnia`s 4.4 million citizens were killed, driven out or fled.
But faced by polls showing 70-80 percent of Bosnians want to join the EU, politicians from the main Muslim bloc dropped objections to a census, a key requirement by Brussels for candidate countries.
The bloc has insisted also on a state-level coordination body to manage EU-funded development programs, rejecting Bosnian Serb demands that each region negotiate individually.
Years of political infighting has left Bosnia`s accession bid at a standstill while neighbouring Croatia is due to join the bloc in 2013, Macedonia has won candidacy and Montenegro expects to start accession talks in June. Serbia and Albania applied for membership but have been turned down.
Bosnia is divided into two autonomous, ethnically based regions - the Federation dominated by Bosniaks (Bosnian Muslims) and Croats, and the Serb Republic - under the terms of the 1995 US-backed Dayton peace agreement. The government is still headed by a three-person presidency, one from each ethnic group.
Deputies from the rival regions regularly blocked laws in Bosnia`s national Parliament and, to try to solve the deadlock, its six main political leaders agreed to form a central government in December, 15 months after an election.
The new census will be conducted in April 2013.