MEPs have assessed the rights of LGBTI people in the Balkans – Montenegro, Macedonia, Serbia and Kosovo – and recommended ways in which the respective countries could improve the situation.
In its report on Montenegro, the Parliament welcomed the authorities protecting and facilitating Montenegro Pride, which was held without any incident. It noted, however, that LGBTI people still face hostility and violence and calls for awareness-raising to change public attitudes.
Furthermore, the report called for training to police, prosecutors and judges to deal with LGBTI-phobia.
In relation to Macedonia, the Parliament called on the authorities to complete their anti-discrimination law in line with EU standards, as it currently leaves out a prohibition on discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation. It further condemned all violence against LGBTI people, and calls for the perpetrators to be brought to justice. (In October a group of hooligans vandalised a bar where the LGBT Support Centre celebrated its second anniversary.)
The Parliament also welcomed recent progress made in Kosovo regarding the establishment of the Advisory and Coordination Group for the Rights of the LGBT Community. It further welcomed the first LGBTI Parade, which took place on 17 May 2014. However, it expressed its concern over threats and attacks against LGBTI human rights activists and called on authorities to raise awareness on anti-discrimination legislation (which includes sexual orientation and gender identity).
Ulrike Lunacek MEP, Co-President of the Intergroup on LGBTI Rights, rapporteur on Kosovo and shadow-rapporteur on Montenegro, reacted: “I am concerned that hostility and violence against the LGBTI community remain problematic for all four countries.
“Equal rights for all, including LGBTI people, is an important hallmark of a mature, inclusive, democratic and tolerant society. I am glad to see many (potential) candidate countries are constructively working to ensure human rights for LGBTI people, in line with European values.”
Tanja Fajon MEP, Vice-President of the Intergroup on LGBTI Rights and shadow rapporteur on Serbia, added: “Today’s vote by a large majority shows strong support for the Balkan’s European future, which will include full respect for human rights of LGBTI people.
“I am glad that colleagues across the political spectrum have shown that the EU takes its human rights commitment seriously, and included strong wording on the rights of LGBTI people.”
Scottish MEP Alyn Smith, who is a member of the LGBT Intergroup, added: “These reports might not get front page headlines in the mainstream press, but will be of great interest to the LGBTI community in Scotland.
“The EU accession process gives a focus, and a leverage, in the reforms we expect these countries to implement and abide by if they are to enter our Community. These changes will make a real difference to the lives of our brothers and sisters across the continent and while the pace of change may not be as fast as I would like, I am utterly convinced this is the best, most effective way to encourage change. With support, encouragement, and sharing our own hard won (and indeed ongoing) experience of building the sort of egalitarian society we want to see.”