Petrit Selimi: Serbia and Kosovo: LGBT* rights and the footnote


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Petrit Selimi

Petrit SELIMI (1979) has been appointed in June 2011 as the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Republic of Kosovo.LGBT*

*In the international conference on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual rights, Serbia once again showed that it is not yet ready to see Kosovo as equal at regional tables for the first time in the history of relations between the two peoples.

In Budva, Montenegro, the audience had the chance to see the same display as last weekend in Sarajevo – Serbia left the international meeting because, according to the statement of the Serb delegate Milan Markovic, Serbian Minister of Human Rights, “Kosovo was not represented according to the Brussels agreement”. Serb media also announced “it is the second time that Kosovo has tried to be represented without the footnote”. On the other hand, a Kosovo delegation left a meeting in Belgrade, again according to Serb propaganda in the media, “because of the presence of the footnote.”
Those skeptical of the agreement in Kosovo have found another opportunity to denounce the agreement as a totally unacceptable and rotten compromise that cannot be achieved because Serbia does not intend to implement the agreements, while it licks its licks with the milk and honey of candidacy (intended ironically).
In truth, the case of these abandoned meetings in the Balkans is a good case for the argument confirming the justice and wisdom of the Kosovo Government in making possible for Kosovo broader representation in the region and beyond.
But first a digression – the meeting in Budva was important for another reason. The panelists invited to this international conference included the Prime Minister of Montenegro Luksic, Deputy Prime Minister Opacic of Croatia, Deputy Prime Minister of Kosovo Hajredin Kuci and Serbian Minister of human rights Milan Markovic, as well as a number of world famous experts from the field of LGBT rights. It is therefore excellent news that the Kosovo’s Deputy Prime Minister participated actively in this Conference which aimed to ensure that lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transsexuals have equal civic and social rights. Kosovo’s Constitution is now progressive with regard to sexual rights, but the conference was dedicated to implementing official EU recommendations with the code CMRCE 2010-5 which obliges the state to strongly ensure full rights for the LGBT community, from public displays and gatherings (which most often occur in capitals as the so-called Gay Pride marches), up to recommendations that homosexual family units have the same legal rights and full marriages as heterosexual couples. The high level of participation confirmed once again the focus that states at the heart of European integration must have on protecting rights of communities across the social, and not just ethnic, landscape.
In this conference, Kosovo was represented according the agreement, with the name of Kosovo with an asterisk on a sign. The footnote was noted on paper while the Kosovo flag was on all documents because other state flags were also present. This fulfilled the condition that Kosovo have an accompanying footnote, but not as part of its name just as – simply a footnote on the first page of documentation. In addition, since the agreement only “encourages the state to use the flag of the host and the EU in meetings”, Kosovo can use its flag in all meetings where there are other flags. Therefore, Kosovo did not participate in Belgrade because our name was integrated entirely with the text of the footnote, which transforms the concept of the footnote giving it the character of a name.
The Brussels agreement, like every other document for Kosovo in international law is intentionally full of ambiguity, but all rational solutions proposed have concluded usually in Kosovo’s interest. So the extreme fear of the footnote was a bit irrational. Care must be taken in implementation, which the Government is doing, but there should not be any shameful calls for attacks on Kosovar leaders that you can read daily in online comments on main Kosovar newspapers.
In these meetings, Serbia is demanding that the entire footnote must be always present on the name plate, which is sabotage and infantile and attempts to displace attention from the fact that now Serbian citizens will be obliged to sit next to Kosovar citizens equally, with a totally negligible small asterisk on the table in contrast to the visible fact of equality, Kosovo’s independent voice and the lack of UNMIK’s or anyone else as interlocutor.
In these regional meetings for the first time in many centuries of turbulent history between Kosovo and Serbia, Kosovar and Serb leaders will be entirely equal as counterparts, with a footnote that won’t be noticed the many times when this equality is shown on the media, in joint ministerial photographs, signing of protocols and agreements, protocol titles and state symbols.
In the words of Professor Jean D’Espremont, Director of the Legal Research Center of the University of Amsterdam, who the Kosovar public know as the lawyer with long hair who with great zeal defended Kosova’s position at the ICJ: “Kosovo has found an elegant solution and in legal circles this compromise of Kosovo’s is seen as well phrased and permits further progress.” Professor D’Espremont adds, “The footnote agreement does not injure Kosovo’s effectiveness but on the contrary – it increases it”.
Therefore, Serbia’s departure from regional conference halls does not prove charges of treachery and unending curses and offenses toward the negotiation team, but confirms once again our constructiveness and unbending dedication to Euro-Atlantic goals, which has brought more dividends than boycotts or refusing the agreements, which would have just opened the door to Serbia delaying for another week, month or year the unstoppable destiny that in the Balkans, a century after the Balkan wars which left Kosovo under Serbia, Kosovo and Serbia will look each other in the eye as independent states and each with their fate in their own hands.
This will be the first test for the newest EU candidate to prove that it has finished with schizophrenic policies toward Kosovo.

Petrit Selimi is Deputy Foreign Minister of Kosovo and heads the public diplomacy efforts.