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Crisis Governance in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia and Serbia

The Study of Floods in 2014


Edited By Vedran Džihić and Magdalena Solska

This comparative study at hand has been the result of a two-year research project on floods in 2014 in the Western Balkans engaging eight research teams from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Croatia. Representing quite different disciplines, the authors of this volume have analysed diverse aspects of the crisis governance and its ramifications. This publication’s goals are twofold. Firstly, it pins down the characteristics of the crisis responses during the floods of 2014 in three affected countries, preconditioned by the existing institutions, crisis leadership, the role of media and the social capital as well as the foreign financial aid. On the other hand, through the lenses of the crisis governance we conclude on the state capacities and the nature of political regime of the cases under study. The flood megacrisis did not constitute a "window of opportunity" for individual or institutional learning. On the contrary, it did unveil some authoritarian tendencies in Serbia and Bosnia, and thus stalled the hitherto ongoing democratization process.

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2. Crisis Response in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Croatia (Damir Kapidžić / Dušan Pavlović / Gordan Bosanac)


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2.  Crisis Response in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Croatia

The institutional design of crisis management in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia and Serbia determined those countries’ responses to the 2014 floods. In all three cases a weak institutional framework and deficient communication, coordination and cooperation severely limited the efficiency of crisis response. Even though the floods affected the broader region, there was no coordinated response between the countries. This was aggravated by the scale of the floods, the rareness of such an event – best described as a black swan event – and the lack of adequate measures to prepare for such an occurrence. The resulting patchwork of institutional responses had its own deficiencies and faults. We identify three common issues: a prevalent lack of effective communication between response actors and institutions through formal channels, a lack of substantial investment in water management and civil protection systems and the absence of responsibility after flooding. There were also differences between cases, especially regarding institutional learning and adaptation. Yet, the floods produced some insights at the strategic level of political officeholders, confirming bad governance in Southeast Europe.

Keywords: black swan events, Bosnia and Herzegovina, crisis management, crisis response, Croatia, flooding, governance, institutional learning, institutions, Serbia


Rivers often determine administrative boundaries but floods and natural disasters show no respect for different governance systems. The 2014 floods severely affected three countries that...

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