How Europe Works for LGBT* Rights

The Croatian Story
How Europe Works for LGBT* Rights
How Europe Works for LGBT* Rights © Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom

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Social discrimination against sexual minorities is still widespread in many European countries. However, today - unlike in earlier times - it is internationally addressed and denounced. Sexual and gender self-determination is a human right. The United Nations officially recognised human rights violations against LBGT* in 2011 with Resolution 17/19: “Human Rights, Sexual Orientation
and Gender Identity”.

Today, LGBT* rights are also an integral part of EU enlargement negotiations and the respectiveannual progress reports.
Using Croatia, which started accession negotiations with the EU at the beginning of the 2000s, as an example, political scientist Nikolina Herceg Kolman shows how respect for LGBT rights developed into a “key issue” during this process, even a “litmus test for ‘being European’”.
It is vividly and clearly shown that this development was no self-runner, but the result of tough negotiations, and close cooperation between EU institutions, political parties and civil society groups and organisations. The latter have created the necessary pressure for changes in national legislation (as in anti-discrimination law and the legal recognition of same sex partnerships) through continuous education and information work – not least among EU representatives – and public campaigns. In 2002, the first Pride Parade of Southeast Europe was successfully held in Croatia’s capital city Zagreb. Through targeted lobbying, LGBT groups even succeeded in inserting a special clause in the anti-discrimination legislation, which was not a prerequisite for EU membership.

The fact that Croatia today, as Herceg Kolman writes, has the most progressive LGBT legislation when compared with other Central and Eastern European EU countries shows how necessary and crucially important civil society engagement is when it comes to strengthening civil rights – and that good results can be achieved in spite of considerable social counter-pressure.
The developments and successes described in this brochure are therefore intended not least to encourage people to take advantage of the opportunities that open up in a unique way during particular times, such as EU accession negotiations.


Michael Roick
Head of Western Balkans Office
Friedrich-Naumann-Stiftung für die Freiheit