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EU-led Monitors Urge Bosnia to Publish Results of 2013 Census

FILE - Bosnian population census officials brief pollsters before they head to work in Sarajevo, Oct. 1, 2013.

Bosnia should publish the results of a contested population census carried out in 2013, a European Union-led monitoring body said on Thursday, as the Balkan nation prepares to apply to join the EU this month.

Bosnia carried out its first census as an independent state in October 2013, an event seen as a milestone in the country's recovery from a 1992-95 war that pitted the region's different ethnic groups against each other.

The census should be used to make voter rolls and divide up government resources, but a row over methodology between Bosnia's two autonomous regions has held up publication of the results.

Bosnia's political blocs - broadly comprising Orthodox Serbs, Catholic Croats and Muslim Bosniaks - fear losing influence if their supporters are incorrectly counted.

The Serb Republic statistics office insists that residence should be determined by place of work or education, saying that many Bosniak and Croat refugees who returned to their pre-war homes in the region do not actually live there all the time.

That suggestion is strongly opposed by the Bosniak-Croat Federation, where statistics officials say it would erase more than 400,000 residents from the database.

The EU says accurate results are crucial to proper government planning.

"The European Union attaches crucial importance to the census in Bosnia-Herzegovina not only because of its relevance in the framework of the European integration process but also as vital to performing economic and social planning," the body, comprised of representatives of EU and United Nations agencies, said in a statement. "This is of utmost urgency now that more than two years have passed since the enumeration."

The census results were due to be published in February 2015, but officials only released preliminary figures on the number of residents per region.

The country-wide statistics office said separately on Thursday that final results could be published in June if all disputed issues are resolved over the next three weeks.

Bosnia plans to officially apply for EU membership on Feb. 15.