From: Alice Elizabeth Taylor
Failure to Open EU Accession Talks Will Result in Lack of Rights for LGBTI in Western Balkans

The LGBTI Equal Rights Association for Western Balkans and Turkey (ERA) and the European Region of the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA Europe) have sent a joint letter to the European Union, the governments of Croatia, France, Denmark and the Netherlands, as well as their embassies in Albania and North Macedonia, on the impact that blocking EU accession talks will have on LGBTI rights in the two Western Balkan countries.

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

The letter states that “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.”

Listing a number of important advances in LGBTI rights and advocacy in the region over the past few years, the letter states that “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.”

This, says the organisations will result in LGBTI communities being again at risk of increased marginalisation and “being left behind” resulting in less support and space for development for the movements.

The rise of populism, political and religious extremism and the emergence of powerful forces against women’s rights, sexual and reproductive rights, and LGTBI rights are threatening the rights and freedoms of citizens. Facing a large number of human rights challenges, the organisations “state our deepest regrets and concerns for the European Council’s historic error of refusing to start accession talks with North Macedonia and Albania.”

They call on the EU and all its Member States to raise awareness about the widespread consequences of the situation and “to do everything in their power to ensure that the start of accession talks is unblocked.”

Signatories include ILGA Europe, ERA, Aleanca LGBT, Pink Embassy, the Macedonian Helsinki Committee, the National Network Against Homophobia and Transphobia, Subversive Front, Coalition Margins, HERA and the LGBT Support Centre.