LGBTI rights organisations urge EU to advance the integration of the WB

Pride Flag; Photo: Pixabay

BELGRADE – The decision not to open accession talks with Albania and North Macedonia despite their clear efforts and advances, damages the credibility of the accession process throughout the region, a process which has been fundamental in improving the legal rights and social acceptance of LGBTI people, write ERA – LGBTI Equal Rights Association for Western Balkans and Turkey and ILGA Europe in a joint letter to EU institutions.

The letter was sent this Monday to the governments of Croatia (as current holder of EU presidency), France, Denmark and the Netherlands on the impact that blocking EU accession talks of Albania and North Macedonia would have on LGBTI rights in the respective countries as well as the Western Balkans region as a whole.

Among others, the letter was sent to Olivér Várhelyi, European Commissioner for European Neighborhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations, Josep Borell, High Representative of the European Union and Gordan Grlić, Croatian Minister of Foreign Affairs and many others.

“The failure by the European Council to move forward with accession talks, despite all these important advances, risks that not only the governments of North Macedonia and Albania will turn away from the enlargement process, but that throughout the region the trust in the process is lost and governments no longer stand by their commitments to uphold human rights, including those of LGBTI people, as a value to be protected and improved”, the letter reads.

The organisations stress that no clear support from the EU and by stopping the EU integration process, LGBTI communities and activists in the Western Balkans are once again at risk of increased marginalization and of being left behind, while LGBTI movements will have even less support and space for development.

According to them, over the last sixteen years, legislative steps were taken to better protect the rights of LGBTI people, as EU integration served as an anchor for reforms in the region.

“The strong and devoted presence of the EU in the Western Balkans is crucial for the overall improvement of the position of marginalized groups such as LGBTI people and its absence can severely damage the newly gained and still fragile progress of the past decade and a half. The LGBTI movement across the region, including in Albania and North Macedonia, always protected the cause of EU integration and its values whenever this was questioned”, it is stated in the letter.

The organisations therefore call on EU to raise awareness about the wide-spread consequences of this situation, and to do everything in their power to ensure that the start of accession talks is unblocked and to reiterate the European perspective of all Western Balkan countries.