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2021 Conference of the ECPR Standing Group on Politics and Gender

Too Proud to Have Pride? The EU’s (In)ability to Promote LGBT Equality in Serbia

Europe (Central and Eastern)
Civil Society
Contentious Politics
Human Rights
Social Movements
European Union
Adam Fagan
Kings College London
Adam Fagan
Kings College London

In addition to transposing the acquis, applicant states are expected to adhere to EU’s fundamental values, and comply with the Copenhagen criteria. Candidate countries have to create societies in which non-discrimination and tolerance prevail.
The experience of the CEE enlargements suggests that the EU’s approach to engendering progressive change is essentially to export its norms via political, legal and institutional transformation. Conditionality drives compliance, and progress is monitored through annual reporting. As part of this process, the EU Commission observes respect for LGBT rights. The pride parade is particularly used as a litmus test, situated on the nexus of different parts the Copenhagen criteria, including respect for minorities, human rights, and rule of law. From this perspective, Serbia is a considerable way from achieving compliance, despite accession negotiations supposedly beginning in January 2014.
In this paper, we question the extent to which apparent political intransigence in Serbia regarding the LGBT pride reflects the limits of EU tools to drive change. If the EU’s strategies worked so recently in Croatia, can they really be failing in Serbia? Is the Serbian political context really so much more challenging? In other words, is the issue of LGBT in Serbia simply a test too great for conditionality?
Drawing on the existing literature, combined with a neo-institutional approach with a constructivist emphasis on practice (Korosteleva et al., 2013), we conceptualise conditionality as a repeated practice, defined and redefined through interactions between the EU and candidate countries. By doing so, we consider the informal and formal gatekeeper elites that are resisting LGBT prides in Serbia. What have been the roles of (non-)state actors in promoting or repressing LGBT prides? The paper identifies impediments to (in)formal transformation and reflects on how EU strategies and tools need to be revised in order to meet Serbia’s prevailing domestic conditions.
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