Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic has canceled the international EuroPride event that was scheduled to be held in Belgrade from September 12-18, while organizers of the event have vowed that it will proceed as planned.
At an August 27 press conference in Belgrade, Vucic acknowledged that the rights of sexual minorities are threatened in Serbia but said the government had come under intense pressure from right-wing groups and representatives of the Serbian Orthodox Church to cancel the event.
“It is not a question of whether [those pressures] are stronger,” Vucic said. “It’s just that at some point you can’t achieve everything, and that’s it.”
Vucic allowed for the possibility that the event could be held at a later date.
EuroPride promotes lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex pride at the pan-European level and is hosted by a different European city each year. The event includes a Pride Parade.
Kristine Garina, president of the European Pride Organizers Association that licenses EuroPride, issued a statement saying the event would not be canceled, despite Vucic’s remarks.
“The right to hold Pride has been ruled by the European Court of Human Rights to be a fundamental human right,” Garina said, adding that any ban would violate the European Convention on Human Rights. “EuroPride in Belgrade will not be canceled and will bring together thousands of LGBTI+ people from across Europe.”
Garina urged the Serbian authorities to “stand firm against these bullies and protect the event.”
Marko Mihailovic, an activist with Belgrade Pride, posted on Twitter that Vucic’s decision to cancel the parade was “a clear violation of the constitution, as well as the verdict of the Constitutional Court declaring the bans of the Pride in 2011, 2012, and 2013 unconstitutional.”
He vowed that the parade would proceed as scheduled on September 17.
Serbia held its first gay-pride parade in 2001, and the event was met by violence and angry counterprotests by far-right and nationalist groups. At the next Belgrade pride parade, in 2010, more than 100 people were injured.
However, a third gay-pride parade was organized in 2014, and the event passed without serious incident. Since then, annual pride parades have been held peacefully in Belgrade each year, except for 2020, when the event was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In 2019, Belgrade was selected to host EuroPride in a landslide vote.
“I have seen for myself the violence and protests that Belgrade Pride has experienced in the past,” said Garina following the 2019 selection. “Our members’ votes for Belgrade show that we want EuroPride to have maximum impact.”
by RFE/RL’s Balkan Service
Source – Radio Free Europe