Young leaders in Serbia: Katarina Trnjaković

Interview with Katarina Trnjaković, a member of the Gay Straight Alliance and the League of Socialdemocrats of Vojvodina Youth, made for CNN and USA Today by Ivan Trajković

Katarina Trnjaković was born in 1993. in Belgrade, but soon she moved in Pančevo where she lives today and attends her last year of high school education. She is a member of League of Socialdemocrats of Vojvodina Youth, activist of Gay Straight Alliance and she works in “Volunteers of Serbia”. She finished numbers of educations and other forms of informal education, through cooperation with non-governmental organizations and foundations. Currently she attends a school of public appearance at the Center for Modern Skills. She speaks in fluent English and Slovenian. In her free time she plays tennis and rides a snowboard, and thus managed to receive the athletic scholarship so she could continue her higher education in the United States where she will study International Relations and Sport Management.

In what level are human rights respected in Serbia?

It is not simple to answer this question. Generally, the state is not solving this problem with marginalized communities in Serbia systematically. Besides, some universal rights are not always substantially respected, such as the right to education, or the right to work. Today, the most deprived groups in Serbia are Roma, LGBT population, and people with disabilities. The state and society have made a certain progress, but it is quite imperceptible and inadequate. If we can judge by the opinion of young people in Serbia, the situation is most disturbing. According to the research done by the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights, 60% of Serbian high school students believe that violence against LGBT population is justifiable. It is clear that there is a need for educating young people, as well as the rest of Serbian population, about human rights and marginalized communities in Serbia. Are human rights respected in Serbia? Ask me this question in a few years’ time, I might give a better answer then.

What can you do in Serbia as a young person?

Young people have a different variety of interests today. On the basis of my personal experience, and the experience of my friends, I can say that young people today are given an opportunity to learn, and acquire knowledge and skills through non-formal education, which can help them improve in both their personal and professional levels. Another important thing is that today young people can become involved. There are mechanisms which allow being involved in decision making process. They have an opportunity to become activists, to travel, and to be well informed thanks to different NGO programs or local self-government programs. In addition to this, the law on volunteering has been adopted, which enables young people to know their rights and obligations, and to become visible as volunteers. Although there is a greater number of institutional and non-institutional mechanisms which give the youth the opportunity to be recognized, young people do have an important task to become acquainted with their rights and obligations, and to plan there future strategically in order to become recognized as an equal force in society. In the end, however, it all depends on personal initiative and motivation.

How close is Serbia to the EU?

I think that in last three years Serbia has done much more and has been much more efficient then in the previous years. Firstly, we met are obligations to the Hague Tribunal and extradited the rest of the suspected people. This has shown that there is a strong will to cooperate and make a progress in European integrations. Furthermore, this government has adopted hundreds of laws during its mandate, some of which are the most important ones in European Agenda. What remains to be done is: passing more laws, establishing harmonization with international legislation, reforming the public sector, as well as changing the Constitution, for without it, there is no Europe, nor us. However, I believe that there is a consensus among political parties on European integration being the priority above all others. For now, the first landmark is expected on December, 9, when we will be able to see how close, or how far, Serbia really is to the EU.

Reforms in Serbia or a reformed Serbia?

Reforms are inevitable, in all fields, and this is what is left to be done, it is the thing which we have to do ourselves. Starting with changing Constitution, enforcing laws, assuming obligations in fight against corruption and slow administration. People need to realize that Serbia is not held hostage by the EU, it has to be its objective to reform and as such joins the European Union. So, Serbia is still not a reformed state.

About your work and your future aspirations?

I still try to find myself. However, a free society, decreasing the level of violence and all kinds of discrimination are the things I truly fight for, and I will continue doing so as long as I have chance. I am glad that I am surrounded with highly ambitious and hardworking people, who will at all times provide their support and help in whatever I will do. I am proud to be a member of League of Socialdemocrats of Vojvodina, since those are the only people who have never disappointed me.