Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic on Saturday announced his decision to cancel a pan-European LGBTQ pride march in Belgrade, saying the country was currently facing too many other problems.
The EuroPride event, organized by the European Pride Organizers Association (EPOA), was due 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 right now the state is going through a lot of problems,” Vucic said, referring to tensions with neighboring Kosovo, various economic problems and threats of right-wing extremists that could lead to violence.
Organizers appeal to PM for support
The announcement was made at the same press conference at which Vucic offered to extend the term 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 called on Brnabic to keep its 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 hold pride has been ruled by the European Court of Human Rights as a fundamental human right.”
Serbian Pride organizer Goran Miletic said the police should outright 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,” Miletic said. “However, such a hypothetical decision would be unconstitutional.”
Serbia’s Anti-LGBTQ Lobby
Serbia has taken steps to protect LGBTQ people as it pursues EU membership. But a large, far-right, often pro-Russian sector of society has violently rejected LGBTQ rights, even attacking people because of their gender or gender identity.
A recent anti-LGBTQ march that was authorized in Belgrade drew thousands of people.
The influential Serbian Orthodox Church has also called the Pride a “disgrace”.
Pride marches in the Serbian capital have only been able to take place with heavy police protection since a 2010 attack.
The President said: “It is not the question of whether [extremists] are stronger, but you can’t do everything at once, and that’s it.”
“I’m not happy about it, but we’re not getting there,” he said, suggesting the parade could be postponed for “happier times.”
a/fb (AP, AFP)