LGBTI Equal Rights Association for Western Balkans and Turkey
In December of 2014 at the Conference The Effect of EU Integration Process on Human Rights of LGBT People, which was organised in Banja Luka, LGBT activists from Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Montenegro have discussed the advancement of human rights of LGBT people in the context of EU integration process. This process has a great influence on all the countries of the region. Regardless of the stage of integration these countries are in, European Union is a political subject with the greatest influence on legislative changes in these countries.
European Union’s influence is limited to quantitative changes, which means that European Union and its mechanism are not as efficient when it comes to long-term qualitative changes. European Union can initiate legislative reforms; however its influence on political will needed for implementation and the distrust society has in legislative, is very limited. Therefore, European Union can define socially acceptable behaviour within its documents, but it cannot work in depth on enabling the change of social patterns and raising the awareness. These changes have to come from the society itself and cannot be expected from the European Union. The influence of European Union weakens after the state candidate becomes its member. It is of utmost importance for civil society organisations to seize the EU integration process as an initiator of changes and use it in the best possible way. After a state become a member of European Union, a great deal of responsibility is transferred to the national institutions for protection of human rights, thus it is necessary to work on strengthening of ombudspersons’ institutions in the countries of the region.
Civil society organisations should definitely use EU integration process while they can, and increase their cooperation with EU institutions. It is necessary to simultaneously maintain 9 The Effect of EU Integration Process On Human Rights of LGBT People In Slovenia, Croatia and Montenegro other approaches such as education, community work and empowerment of LGBT community, cultural and political engagement, policy recommendation, etc. In addition it is important to establish cooperation, network and exchange experiences with other organisations, both local and regional. Although this kind of joint activity, demands extra work and coordination, in long-term it is more efficient and enables better results to be achieved.
Civil society organisations in BiH can learn a lot from the experiences of countries from the region, when it comes to EU integration process. Most valuable experiences for BH civil society organisations are definitely the ones coming from Slovenia and Croatia as EU member states, and Montenegro, as a country that has made most progress on the legislative plan of protection of human rights of LGBT people in accordance to EU standards, for now.