Serbian President, Aleksandar Vucic, canceled September’s EuroPride parade in Belgrade – scheduled to take place between 12 and 18 September – after thousands of people marched against the event. Vucic alleged that the parade would be “postponed or canceled” due to “recent tensions with its former province Kosovo” and issues around food and energy.
The president acknowledged the “violation of minority rights” this move meant. However, he defended his decision by claiming that threats from right-wing groups to disrupt the event and rising border tensions with Kosovo would put the security of the events at risk.
Les Serbian Prime Minister, Ana Brnabic, the first woman and first openly gay person to hold the office, agreed with Vucic: “the first inviolable thing is to ensure peace and stability in the country.”
Les European Pride Organizers Association quickly responded that they hadn’t received any formal notification of a ban. Kristine Garina, president of the European Pride Organizers Association, challenged the President:
“President Vucic cannot cancel someone else’s event. EuroPride is not cancelled and will not be cancelled. During the bidding process for EuroPride 2022, Prime Minister of Serbia, Ana Brnabic promised the full support of the Serbian government for EuroPride in Belgrade, and we expect that promise to be honoured.”
Humans Rights Watch has called for the Serbian government to rescind the ban. They demanded the executive work with the organizers to ensure adequate safety for participants.
“It is Serbia’s duty to ensure the respect of freedom” European Greens said
Les Verts européens urged Serbia’s authorities to maintain the event and deploy police protection to ensure the safety of the act.
Melanie Vogel, co-chair of the European Greens commented:
“It is Serbia’s duty to ensure the respect of freedom of assembly and the security of those who will march for fundamental rights. We cannot accept that hate, violence, and threats dictate the #EuroPride2022 celebrations.”
In solidarity with the LGBTI community, the European greens committee members will be travelling to Belgrade to assist the EuroPride 2022.
LGBTI+ rights and activism in Southeast Europe
Serbia had previously banned Pride events between 2011 and 2013. However, Pride was celebrated peacefully every year after the government revoked its decision.
The Pride organizers highlighted the importance of Serbia’s role as host of EuroPride, “an important step along the path toward achieving equality for the LGBTI+ community in the Western Balkans.” This would be the first time this pan-European initiative would be held in Southeast Europe, a region with a turbulent history of discrimination and repression against the LGBTI+ community.
The Belgrade Pride is running a campaign to support the celebration.
United Nations Serbia Coordinator, Françoise Jacob, emphasized that EuroPride was the best opportunity for Belgrade to celebrate the foundations of a strong and progressive society “based on social equity, equality of all rights, solidarity, friendship, and love".
The UN Office in Belgrade advised that canceling the event would risk “the right to freedom of assembly as guaranteed by the Serbian Constitution.”
As a member of the Council of Europe, Serbia should follow the Council’s standards to combat discrimination and ensure everyone’s freedom of peaceful assembly without discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity. The European Court of Human Rights specified that a ban on a Pride event would constitute a breach of Articles 11, 13, and 14 of the European Convention.