Zlatko Lagumdzija

Former Prime Minister and Former Foreign Minister of Bosnia-Herzegovina

Zlatko Lagumdzija was born in Sarajevo (Federal Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina) on the 26th of December 1955. He is the son of a former Mayor of Sarajevo, Salko Lagumdzija (1921-1973), who governed the Bosnian Capital from 1965 to 1967. Zlatko grew up in Bosnia but completed his secondary education in Detroit in the US in 1973, through the Youth for Understanding student exchange program. He eventually returned to Bosnia where he studied for a BSc in Computer Science and Electrical Engineering, followed by an MSc in 1981 and finally a PhD in 1988 in the same fields, with spells in the US. He then went on to undertake postdoctoral research at the University of Arizona, funded by an international exchange program, in Management Information Systems at the University’s Centre for Computing and Information Technology. In 1989 he was nominated Professor of Management Information Systems (MIS) at the University of Sarajevo and started teaching at the Economics Faculty and at the Electrical Engineering Faculty of the University. He continued to pursue his academic interests in MIS and Group Support Systems all his life, writing many articles and books on the subject and directing the Management and Information Technology Centre at the University of Sarajevo since 1995.

His entry into politics came soon after the break-up of Bosnia-Herzegovina from the Yugoslav Federation and its establishment as a separate political entity in the nineties, when he became involved with the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and eventually became its head.  The New President of the Bosnian Republic, Alija Izetbegović, nominated him as Deputy Prime Minister in early 1992. He came to be recognised as the leader of the moderate, non-nationalist centre-left in Bosnian politics which soon became bitterly split along ethnic lines. He remained at his post through the whole of the dramatic civil war and the siege of Sarajevo which lasted until 1995. As deputy Prime Minister he vigorously urged President Izetbegovic to resist the signing of the Vance-Owen plan proposed by the UN, and took to heart the plight of the besieged ethnic Bosniaks in Srebrenica, trying to persuade the UN to send aid convoys not only to Sarajevo but also to Bosniak enclaves in Serb-held territory. He witnessed the perils of war on his own skin when on his landing in Sarajevo Airport he was briefly kidnapped in May 1992 together with President Izetbegović by the Yugoslav army, and later was wounded by a mortar shell during the siege of Sarajevo.

After the war, he was elected to the House of Representatives of the Bosnian parliamentary Assembly in 1996 and the year later was appointed president of the Social Democratic Party. At the 2000 elections he backed former Prime Minister Haris Silajdžić and joined his Alliance for Change political manifesto, and was one of the only parties running on a multi-ethnic platform. He was subsequently nominated as Foreign Minister, representing Bosnia and Herzegovina abroad until 2003. In 2001, he was finally elected to the post of Chairman of the Council of Ministers of Bosnia and Herzegovina (the highest political office in the Republic, equivalent to the post of Prime Minister). His party, the SDP, had a manifesto of economic reform, anti-corruption, multi-ethnicity and democratization, and was seen as the most “western” of the major political parties. His appointment was greeted in the international community as the “face of a united, pluralistic Bosnia”. As Prime Minister, he encouraged economic reform, the rebuilding of infrastructure and the re-launching of the economy, and presided over the continued assertion of the rule of law over the Republic. His government was associated by international commentators with the lifting of the profile of Bosnia and Herzegovina abroad. Unfortunately, he did not last long enough in government to see the reforms through, as his party was defeated by nationalist opposition in 2002 elections.

Afterwards, he left national politics and used his experience and credibility as a top diplomat on the international stage, advising foreign governments and international organizations on peace-keeping, democratization and development in the Balkans as well as around the world. He served as an observer for the International Mission on the 1998 elections in Pakistan, the first international mission to Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003 and the National Democratic Institute’s (NDI) pre-election mission in Afghanistan in 2004. He is also active in the World Economic Forum’s initiative “Global Leaders for Tomorrow”, serves on the International Advisory Committee for the Congress of Democrats from the Islamic World since 2004, and is a member of the Club of Madrid. He has been bestowed with many academic honours from various institutions for his work both in politics and international relations and for his research in Information Technology, and is often involved as a guest speaker in international conferences. Zlatko Lagumdzija is married to Amina and has two children, Dina and Zlatko-Salko.