LGBT rights in the Balkans: Assessing two decades of change and nationalist challenges

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03/01/2023

Some progress has been made on strengthening LGBT rights in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, and Serbia over the last two decades, in part due to the requirements of the EU accession process. Yet as Safia Swimelar writes, there remains concern that the continued power of nationalist political parties and democratic backsliding in the region could make further progress challenging. After a turbulent post-war period, the three largest countries of the former Yugoslavia – Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, and Serbia – shifted toward greater democracy and Europeanisation in the early 2000s. All three had joined the Council of Europe by 2003 (with Croatia the earliest in 1996) and had set their sights on EU membership (Croatia started EU negotiations in 2005 and joined in 2013, while Serbia and Bosnia have been at the ‘candidate’ phase from 2012 and 2022 respectively). Many civil society groups expected and demanded, and the EU also required for membership, that these new states would improve their human rights protection, including LGBT rights.

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