During a routine Saturday press conference Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic announced that the international EuroPride event scheduled to be held in the Serbian capital city of Belgrade from Sept. 12-18 was cancelled.
In his remarks the Serbian leader told reporters that his government had come under intense pressure from far right-wing groups and the leadership of the Serbian Orthodox Church to cancel the event. Vucic acknowledged that LGBTQ rights and people in the Balkan nation were under siege and threatened. However he deflected on the issue.
“It is not a question of whether [those pressures] are stronger,” he said. “It’s just that at some point you can’t achieve everything, and that’s it.”
Reaction to the Serbian leader’s remarks was swift with the European Pride Organizers Association that licenses EuroPride writing in a statement that any ban would be in violation of articles of the European Convention of Human Rights in regards to human rights and protections for sexual minorities.
“President Vucic cannot cancel someone else’s event. EuroPride is not cancelled, and will not be cancelled,” European Pride Organizers Association President Kristine Garina said.
“During the bidding process for EuroPride 2022, (the) 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 honored,” she said continuing:
“Aside from the illegality of such a ban, it must be noted that those opposing EuroPride in Belgrade are using tired old tropes, inaccuracies and downright lies to discredit what is, in fact, a celebration of human rights and equality. They say that we are against family values, when all of us comes from a family and many of us have families of our own. They say that we are child abusers, when we all stand firm against all child abuse. They claim that Serbian authorities have invested €40 million ($39.83 million) into EuroPride, despite the event costing a fraction of this and not receiving any funds from government. Every one of their claims is a lie, and to try to ban EuroPride would mean authorities had fallen for their lies.”
“EuroPride in Belgrade will not be cancelled and will bring together thousands of LGBTI+ people from across Europe with LGBTI+ people from Serbia and the wider western Balkans. It will bring many millions of Dinar into the local economy, and allow Serbia to show that it is on the road to being a progressive, welcoming European nation. What Serbian authorities must do is stand firm against these bullies, and protect the event,” Garina said.
In Belgrade, an activist with Belgrade Pride, Marko Mihailovic tweeted:
“The state cannot cancel EuroPride — it can only try to ban it, which would be a clear violation of the Constitution as well as the judgment of the Constitutional Court banning Pride from the years 2011, 2012, 2013 (that were declared) unconstitutional. Pride (will take) place as planned on Sept. 17. at 5 p.m. in front of the National Assembly!”
Država EuroPride ne može da otkaže – može samo da proba da ga zabrani, što bi bilo jasno kršenje Ustava kao i presuda ustavnog suda koje zabrane Prajda iz 2011,12,13. god. proglašavaju neustavnim.
Prajd se održava po planu 17.09. u 17h ispred Narodne Skupštine!
— Marko Mihailović (@PalpFiksn) August 27, 2022
There has been violence at previous Pride events being held in the Serbian capital city, most notably on Oct. 10, 2010, when anti-LGBTQ and ultra nationalist anti-government protesters fought with about 5,000 armed Serbian police resulting in 78 police officers and 17 civilians that were injured some seriously and more than 100 arrests and detentions.
The violence also severely damaged the parking garage of the ruling pro-European Democratic Party in an act of arson, the state TV building and the headquarters of other political parties were also damaged.
The rioting came as Serbia was seeking admittance as an EU member state.
A spokesperson for the ILGA-Europe said that since 2014 Pride events were held in Belgrade under mostly peaceful conditions, but there is extreme pushback from the ultra-nationalist groups and especially those groups aligned with the Orthodox Church.
Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic, who is a lesbian, and her partner joined the Pride marches since 2017 although in 2019 more than 100 far-right activists gathered, some holding Orthodox Christian banners and crosses and singing religious songs.
Serbian Police scuffled with several after they refused to move from the route of the march, and at least five people were detained Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty reported at the time.
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