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Challenging the Norm: EU's Eastern Enlargement and Normative Change in LGBT Politics

10 February 2015

Time: 1:00 - 2:00pm
Venue: Francis Bancroft Building, Rm 3.27, Mile End Campus
Speaker: Koen Slootmaeckers

This paper examines the impact of European Union (EU) Eastern enlargement on the position of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) people in Central and Eastern European (CEE) member states and in Croatia. Rather than focusing on institutional and legal changes, this article asks whether the EU accession process can contribute to the onset of a normative change process regarding LGBT politics. Applying a bottom-up approach to Europeanisation and by analysing semi-structured interviews with members of the European Parliament, EU officials, and local and European LGBT activists, I argue that domestic agency needs to be taken into account in order to understand the impact of the EU on the ideational landscape in new member states. As the EU enlargement process in CEE had limited attention for LGBT rights and limited local LGBT activists’ agency within the process, a space for political contestation of the dominant norms did not emerge. In Croatia, on the other hand, with a stronger emphasis on fundamental rights (including LGBT rights) in the accession process, activists were able to use the EU accession process to gain momentum to challenge the hegemonic homophobic norms. Although it is too early to determine whether a normative shift has occurred in Croatia, it is clear that the EU accession process has contributed to the onset of a normative change process as it enabled LGBT activists to publicly contest the current order of norms.
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