The Serbian police officially banned Belgrade EuroPride late on Tuesday, following a call to ban by President Aleksandr Vucic, but supporters, including MEPs are adamant a compromise can be found, and the event will go on.
EuroPride is held in a different European capital every year, and this was Belgrade’s first time hosting.
“The Serbian police banned this year’s EuroPride march by handing over the official notice to the organisers,” Belgrade Pride said. “Belgrade Pride will use all available legal means to overturn this decision.”
Vucic had called for the event’s cancellation earlier in September, with organisers vowing to continue. He said the reason behind calls to cancel or postpone it were tensions with Kosovo.
In the days that followed, a series of anti-Pride protests took place in Belgrade, featuring figures from the Serbian Orthodox Church who made comments such as Putin is “the emperor of the earth” and claims the LGBT community want to “desecrate the sanctity of marriage”, while others carried banners with Russian President Vladamir Putin’s face on.
He then said it would be up to the police to decide whether to formally ban it, a decision which can only be made 96 hours or less before the event.
Interior Minister Aleksandar Vulin confirmed it was banned along with a counter-protest scheduled for the same day.
“Senseless conflicts on the streets of Belgrade would … endanger the safety of the participants of the march, as well as other citizens.”
This is even though Belgrade has hosted a pride march sporadically since 2001 and regularly since 2014 with few problems. It was chosen to host EuroPride in 2019, making it the first country in the region and the first outside the European Economic Area to hold the event.
European Commissioner for Human Rights commented on the situation on Tuesday, before its formal prohibition by the police.
“As I have stressed in my conversations with the Serbian authorities at the highest level over the past two weeks, the fact that Europride takes place in Serbia this week is also of great significance for the south-eastern European region, where much still needs to be done to combat discrimination and hate against LGBTI people,”
She said that hosting the march would signal that progress towards equality is underway, adding the Serbian authorities should ensure they are “on the right side of history by enabling a peaceful and safe EuroPride march next Saturday.”
She also noted that the European Court of Human Rights states are obliged to the greatest extent possible to facilitate holding peaceful assemblies.
“I find it highly concerning that the Europride march is facing such a level of obstruction from the authorities, while other events and massive gatherings are constantly taking place freely and safely in the streets of Belgrade,” she added.
During the opening conference of EuroPride week, participants stood and chanted slogans for their cause, demanding the event go ahead, but despite this, all efforts fell on deaf ears.
But those supporting the event do not appear to be easily dissuaded. Greens MEP Terry Reintke and co-chair of the LGBTI Intergroup said, “We regret the decision taken by the Serbian police to ban the route of the EuroPride march…despite
this fallback, we maintain that negotiations must carry on in the direction of finding a result which validates the efforts and goodwill of the organisers and that presents an acceptable solution to the government. We insist all efforts must be employed to find a compromise solution.”
His comments were echoed by MEP and fellow Co-Chair Marc Angel (S&D Group), who said, “We have urged authorities to liaise, to negotiate and to agree on a compromise, which to this point was clear: a shorter, secure route, enshrining the principles of peaceful assembly and freedom of expression.”
He continued that he believes a “credible solution” can be found and proposed to organisers.
Goran Miletic, one of the event’s organisers, said the demonstration would go ahead despite the ban. “We will certainly get together and walk as planned,” Miletic said.