Following the appointment of Ireland’s new gay prime minister, a lesbian woman will for the first time lead the conservative Southeast European country of Serbia.
On Thursday, the President of Serbia, Aleksandar Vučić, announced that Ana Brnabić will form the nation’s new government as the prime minister.
Brnabić, 41, studied at Northwood University in the US and the University of Hull in England. She has only been in government since August 2016 when she became Minister of Public Administration and Local Self-Government. This made her the first openly gay government minister in the history of Serbia.
President Vučić, who handpicked Brnabić, described her as “hard-working with professional and personal qualities”. The new government must still be approved by parliament next week, which is expected to be a formality.
“If elected in parliament, I will run the government with dedication and responsibility and I will do my job honestly and with love,” Brnabić told the Tanjug state news agency.
In an earlier interview with the RTV channel, Brnabić said that her sexual orientation should not be seen as a factor in her work as a public servant.
“What is important is whether someone is capable, professional, hard-working, honest, likes their country and wants to work in its best interest,” she said.
Conservative groups in Serbia have already attacked Brnabić’s appointment as being anti-family and an attempt to pander to the West.
Serbia, which is in the process of negotiating joining the European Union, has a patchy record on LGBT equality and has been accused of failing to tackle homophobia and transphobia.
Pride parades in the capital Belgrade were banned between 2011 and 2014 due to threats of violence from anti-LGBT groups. The country does not offer any legal recognition to same-sex couples.
Brnabić’s appointment comes in the same week as the formal election by parliament of Leo Varadkar as Ireland’s first gay prime minister. They join Luxembourg’s Xavier Bettel as Europe’s current openly-LGBT heads of state.