Jun 242017

President Aleksandar Vučić announces appointment of Ana Brnabić, 41, a graduate of the University of Hull, England.

From the Guardian Newspaper.

A gay woman has been appointed prime minister of Serbia in a double first for the EU-candidate state.

Ana Brnabić, 41, a graduate of the University of Hull in England, is the Balkan nation’s first gay PM and first female PM.

Brnabić’s appointment, which comes in the same week that Leo Varadkar was formally elected as Ireland’s first gay PM, is all the more remarkable given that virulent homophobia is still widespread in the Balkans.

The Serbian president, Aleksandar Vučić, announced on Thursday evening that he was giving Brnabić, a non-party technocrat, the mandate to form a new government, describing her as “hard-working, [with] professional and personal qualities”, the Serbian news agency B92 reported.

Vučić, who handpicked Brnabić to succeed him as prime minister following his election as president in a landslide victory in April is expected to remain the most powerful figure in the country. He said the Socialist foreign minister, Ivica Dačić, who has been standing in as prime minister, would “essentially lead the political part” of the government. Dačić, like Vučić, was an ally o the late Yugoslav strong man  Slobodan Milošević, and is regarded as being on the pro-Russian and nationalist side of the government.

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Brnabić entered politics just last year when she became Serbia’s first openly gay minister, heading the ministry for public administration and local self-government. She studied in the US and graduated in Hull with a marketing MBA in 2001, before returning to Serbia to work in the wind power industry and then for US-funded development projects.

Goran Miletić, a civil rights activist and Belgrade Pride organiser, said: “Even in some western countries it would be big news and a positive signal if a gay or lesbian person became prime minister or minister. It is even more important for a country where 65% believe that homosexuality is an illness and 78% think that homosexuality should not be expressed outside homes. The appointment of a lesbian can only be a positive message.”

Miletić said LGBT rights were a low priority both for the government and international community, though Vučić’s administration had made some progress, including on legal recognition of gender reassignment.

Violence and discrimination are widespread and recourse to justice after homophobic attacks limited by social stigma. Belgrade’s high-profile Pride parade has been suspended in the past over “security concerns” and now takes place under heavy police guard, amid protests by the far right and the Orthodox church. Miletić said respect for LGBT rights was unlikely to grow in the near future.

Brnabić will take up her role as Serbia navigates a crucial few years: the country is preparing for EU membership while retaining its traditionally close relationship with Russia, and nurturing a growing friendship with Beijing.

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