This article investigates and compares the extent to which LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) rights norms have diffused and become empowered within Bosnia and Serbia as part of their European Union (EU) accession process across three particular arenas: institutional/legal, state authority, and civil society. It inquires as to whether EU candidate status and a “credible membership incentive” affect norm empowerment, given that Serbia is an official EU candidate state, while Bosnia is not. Building upon models of human rights norm diffusion and the most recent scholarship on LGBT rights and Europeanization, this article finds that LGBT rights have moved from a period of systematic denial and indifference to a “tactical concessions” phase of greater empowerment and visibility, while domestic challenges to these rights still persist. EU conditionality and pressure have played important roles in pushing forward new LGBT friendly legislation in both countries and indirectly increasing the visibility of LGBT organizations and rights. Serbia has gone farther due to a greater EU membership incentive and a stronger domestic LGBT civil society. Bosnia has responded less to EU pressure, and its domestic ethno-political dynamics have made LGBT rights diffusion more challenging. As post-war states still struggling with questions of identity and democracy, Bosnia and Serbia are critical cases to examine the ability of controversial new norms to diffuse in states that are seeking membership to the European Union.


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pp. 910-942
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