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Out of the homeland: The Croatian Right and Gay Rights

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image of Southeastern Europe

Ana Hofman, Guest Editor

This article discusses how the Croatian right’s attitudes towards gay rights have been defined by nationalism and Europeanism. It focusses on the Croatian Democratic Union (Hrvatska demokratska zajednica, HDZ), which has dominated Croatian politics since it was first elected to government in 1990. It led Croatia to independence from Yugoslavia in 1991 and through the homeland War from 1991 to 1995, and it also started and finished Croatia’s negotiations for accession to the European Union from 2005 to 2011. The HDZ government did not actively address gay rights in Croatia in the 1990s, especially since it espoused a heteronationalism influenced by Roman Catholic teachings. Homosexuality was usually mentioned by HDZ officials only in negative terms, such as when allegations of it were used to discredit critics or opponents. Although the HDZ government had sought to integrate Croatia with Western Europe, it was isolated by the West in the late 1990s because of its authoritarian and nationalist tendencies. However, after its electoral defeat in 2000, the HDZ transformed itself into a more moderate right-wing party, and it returned to government in 2003. Subsequently, it had to actively address gay rights, as these had become a prominent political issue under the previous government and with the rise of a local gay movement. As the HDZ government placed EU accession at the centre of its programme, it also came under pressure from the EU to adopt anti-discrimination laws to protect sexual minorities. However, the HDZ continues to oppose the expansion of gay rights in debates on same-sex marriage or adoption rights for same-sex couples, which are not required for admission into the EU, and it continues to do this with references to traditional Croatian and Catholic values.

Affiliations: 1: Visiting Fellow, Department of History and Civilisation, European University Institute, Florence


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