SARAJEVO — A year after last October's general election, Bosnia is still without a central government, with the inability of political leaders to agree on a future cabinet hampering the bid for EU integration.
"Instead of seeking a compromise, the six parties (taking part in the negotiations) are stuck in their hardline positions," explained Srecko Latal of the International Crisis Group (ICG) think-tank.
Condemning the "irresponsibility" of political leaders, Latal told AFP that the absence of a new government "will cost Bosnia a lot, as this situation ruins its (international) reputation."
He noted that the country has seen its credit ratings downgraded by international financial agencies, while foreign investments in the Balkan country have fallen 75 percent since 2009.
For analyst Tanja Topic the problem is that Bosnia has no "culture of compromise."
"It is considered a weakness," Topic said.
This is the longest political crisis in Bosnia since the end of the 1992-1995 inter-ethnic war.
Since the October 2010 general election, the outgoing government has been charged with handling current affairs, but cannot introduce the reforms necessary for Bosnia to be in a position to join the European Union.
The central government links the country's two post-war entities - the Muslim-Croat Federation and the Bosnian Serbs' Republika Srpska.
Both Brussels and Washington support strengthening the central government's powers in order to implement political, judicial and economic reforms.
Numerous attempts to define a new government cabinet -- a prime minister and the heads of nine ministries -- have failed, with the main dispute over the distribution of posts reserved for Croatian representatives.
"We have all agreed that a future council of ministers (government) should consist of three Bosnians (Muslims), three Serbs, three Croats and one minister who would represent other" communities, said Bosnian Muslim leader Sulejman Tihic.
But the disagreement is over the division of the posts reserved for Bosnian Croats, he said.
Both the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) and the breakaway HDZ-1990 group insist that they are the only "legitimate" representatives of the Bosnian Croats and demand the positions in the government reserved for the Croat community.
The multi-ethnic Social Democratic Party -- in coalition with the main Bosnian Muslim SDA party -- has attracted a certain amount of support among Bosnian Croat voters and also wants the posts reserved for this community.
The Croat community represents between 10 and 14 percent of Bosnia's total population, while Bosnian Muslims make 40-48 percent of the 3.9 million inhabitants of this former Yugoslav republic.
Legislation does not envisage early elections so the political impasse could in theory last till the next scheduled vote in 2014.
The introduction of reforms, already slow since 2006 because of inter-ethnic disputes, has practically ground to a halt since last year.
The endless political stalemate has delayed Bosnia's progress towards the European Union, hampering goals for it to apply for membership and enlarging the gap between Bosnia and other states in the region.