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Photograph: Photo by Jennifer Boyer, used under CC BY

The publication of the results of the population census could raise political tensions in Bosnia and Herzegovina as Republika Srpska (RS), its Serb entity, has announced that it will neither recognise them nor participate in their processing, Bosnian media said on Thursday.

A decision adopted yesterday by Bosnian Statistical Agency director Velimir Jukic eliminated obstacles to the processing and publication of the results of the October 2013 census. Under the decision, 196,000 persons whose status the RS authorities disputed, because they stated that they worked or studied abroad, will be counted among the country's permanent residents.

RS President Milorad Dodik said this was "a blow to Bosnia and Herzegovina." "We won't participate in that nor publish anything," Nezavisne Novine daily quoted him as saying. He said two years of negotiations aimed at agreeing a methodology for processing the results had been wasted. He said this was such a serious crisis that the Bosnian parliament and Council of Ministers should discuss it at extraordinary sessions.

Council of Ministers Chairman Denis Zvizdic, on the other hand, said this was a positive decision of outstanding importance for the country. "That's very good news," he told Dnevni Avaz daily, adding that the publication of the results will remove a big obstacle to Bosnia's European integration and help to plan the country's development strategy.

The 2013 population census was the first since the 1992-95 war and is expected to show its consequences. Disputes over the publication of its results were a continuation of political battles over the country's ethnic make-up waged between 1995 and 2013.

Contentious was the status of thousands who were driven out of their homes during the war, primarily on RS territory, and whose post-war return was made difficult or prevented in various ways. Numerous are the cases in which returnees somehow won their property back, even rebuilding houses, but could not get a job, which forced them to work abroad and occasionally come to their homes in Bosnia. RS is against granting them the status of permanent residents and it turns out that this applies to nearly 200,000 people who can significantly affect the country's ethnic make-up.

After the October 2013 census, it was only said that Bosnia has 3.79 million inhabitants. Exact data is expected to be published by July 1, the final deadline for it.

Dnevni Avaz quoted statistician Hasan Zolic as saying that, according to the methodology agreed yesterday, Bosnia has a population of 3,520,000, including 1,764,000 Bosniaks (50.1%), 1,085,000 Serbs (30.8%), 543,000 Croats (15.41%), and 129,000 inhabitants (3.68%) of other ethnicities.

According to the previous census from 1991, Bosnia had a little over 4.3 million inhabitants, including a little over 1.9 million Muslims, now called Bosniaks, (43.37%), about 1.3 million Serbs (31.21%), about 760,000 Croats (17.38%), and 242,000 Yugoslavs (5.45%).

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