Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic announced his decision on Saturday to cancel a pan-European LGBTQ pride march in Belgrade, saying the country was grappling with too many other issues at the moment.
Organized by the European Pride Organizers Association (EPOA), the EuroPride event was scheduled to take place from September 12-18. Belgrade was chosen to host the parade three years ago.
“This is a violation of minority rights, but at the moment the state is being pressured by numerous problems,” Vucic said, citing tensions with neighboring Kosovo, various economic problems and threats from right-wing extremists that could lead to violence.
The organizers ask PM for support
The announcement came during the same press conference in which Vucic proposed extending the term of office of current Prime Minister Ana Brnabic, who identifies as a lesbian.
Brnabic became prime minister in 2017 but has been criticized by LGBTQ groups for not doing enough to support the community in Serbia.
EPOA President Kristine Garina urged Brnabic to stick to her promise to support the event, but added that Vucic had no authority to ban Pride.
“President Vucic cannot cancel someone else’s event,” Garina said. “The right to pride has been recognized as a fundamental human right by the European Court of Human Rights.”
Serbian Pride organizer Goran Miletic said police would have to officially ban the parade, which would then expose them to legal challenges, but they cannot ban indoor events.
“The only thing that can happen is that the police ban the march,” said Miletic. “However, such a hypothetical decision would be unconstitutional.”
Serbia’s anti-LGBTQ lobby
Serbia has taken steps to offer protection to LGBTQ people as it seeks EU membership. But a large far-right, often pro-Russian segment of society has violently opposed LGBTQ rights and even attacked people on the basis of their gender or sexual identity.
A recent anti-LGBTQ march allowed to take place in Belgrade attracted thousands of people.
The influential Serbian Orthodox Church has also previously branded Pride as a “shame”.
Since an attack in 2010, Pride marches in the Serbian capital can only be held with strong police protection.
The President said: “It’s not a question of if [extremists] are stronger, but you just can’t do everything at the same time, and that’s it.”
“I’m not happy about it, but we can’t do it,” he said, suggesting the parade be postponed to “happier times.”
ab/fb (AP, AFP)