Summary: Roundtable on LGBT Rights in the Western Balkans

Intergroup meeting on LGBT rights in the Western Balkans

In light of the close relations between Western Balkans countries and the European Union, and these countries’ path towards acceding to the EU, the LGBT Intergroup hosted a roundtable on LGBT Rights in the Western Balkans on Thursday 22 November 2012.

MEPs from the Intergroup met with LGBT activists from Croatia and Montenegro, as well as a representative of the European Commission.

Event report

Detlev Boeing, DG Enlargement of the European Commission

After a short introduction by LGBT Intergroup Co-President and Rapporteur for Kosovo Ulrike Lunacek, the roundtable began with a presentation by the European Commission. Detlev Boeing, from the Directorate-General for Enlargement, presented the accession reports of Western Balkan countries with a particular focus on issues affecting LGBT people.

He pointed at persisting problems of particular countries, not only in their legal framework and political support, but also concerning societal acceptance.

Sanja Juras, ILGA-Europe/Lesbian Group Kontra (Croatia)

The roundtable continued by an exchange with human rights defenders, starting with Croatian activist Sanja Juras from lesbian group Kontra. In her presentation, she focused on three main human rights issues for LGBT people in Western Balkans: hate crimes, freedom of assembly, and discrimination.

Zdravko Cimbaljevic, LGBT Forum Progress (Montenegro)

Zdravko Cimbaljevic, Executive Director of LGBT Forum Progres, gave a personal account of the daily reality of Montenegrin LGBT people. Showing how widespread trans- and homophobia still is, he indicated that at the same time the tide seems to be turning and with slow improvements, notably legal.

Kocho Andonovski, LGBTI Support Center (Macedonia)

Addressing the event by videoconference, Kocho Andonovski explained activists in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia were highly concerned about ongoing homophobic campaigns widely relayed in the press. The Minister for Labor and Social Affairs made especially violent statements, which led to homophobic violence.

Additionally, it was pointed out that transgender people couldn’t obtain official identification easily, and that national anti-discrimination laws still fell short of EU standards by excluding sexual orientation from their scope.

The event concluded with an exchange of views among MEPs and activists.