As expected, the annual Europride parade, originally slated to be held in Belgrade is officially off, with police banning the event due to security risks.
Parade organizers remained adamant that they would push for compromise, and although it was known in advance that there would be no parade, alternate routes, legal, semi-legal and otherwise, were much discussed. Now parade organizers have stated that all legal means will be considered in order to get the event back on track.
The cancellations comes following a series of vociferous right-wing protests, which featured thousands upon thousands of anti-LGBTQ protesters supported by the Serbian Orthodox Church.
It may be said that Belgrade/Serbia was an odd choice for the event from the start. True, Europride is held every year in a different European city, but the likelihood of this year’s parade going off without a hitch was in reality quite low. And although Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic has stated firmly that he is not in agreement with anything said during anti-gay protests, he also did give a heads up close to a month ago that the event would not occur-also due to security risks.
And the risks are not exactly negligible. Previous marches in Belgrade were noted for riots, and there is the question of cost with regard to massive police protection needed to separate parade participants from the far right.
Yet preventing the parade also has risks, as Serbia is ostensibly angling for EU membership, and anti-Serbia voices are quick to point out that cancelling the parade may be seen as an affront against EU-protected human rights and thus throw future EU membership into question. With this coming on the back of sharp criticism and prodding with regard to Serbia’s stance on Kosovo… the timing could be better.
This was highlighted by a statement from the Council of Europe’s human right commissioner, Dunja Mijatovic, who noted “weeks of uncertainty,” which has weakened the cause of equal rights for the LGBTQ community while enabling right-wing opposition.
Photo credit: Europride Vienna photo courtesy of Mickey Mystique, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons