Serbian president wants to cancel Europe's biggest Pride event, sparking criticism

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By Euronews
Participants carry large rainbow flag in front of the parliament building as they take part in the annual LGBT pride march in Belgrade, 19 September 2021
Participants carry large rainbow flag in front of the parliament building as they take part in the annual LGBT pride march in Belgrade, 19 September 2021   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic

Europe's largest Pride event, scheduled to be held in the Serbian capital in September, will be “cancelled or postponed,” the Balkan country’s President Aleksandar Vučić said on Saturday.

Speaking at a press conference in Belgrade, the Serbian leader said that the decision to cancel or postpone EuroPride was difficult “because I am not very happy to jeopardise the rights of a minority”.

However, Vučić also said that the majority of government ministers, including Prime Minister Ana Brnabić, had agreed to the move because the country had been facing a number of issues in recent times. 

“We can’t do it because we have … a significant crisis in Kosovo, which won’t stop before 1 September," said Vučić.

Prishtina and Belgrade have been at a weeks-long standoff after the Kosovo government announced it would introduce reciprocity measures affecting Serbian citizens, involving entry documents and licence plates, scheduled to be introduced on 1 September.

Vučić denied that the decision was made due to mounting pressures from the more radical parts of the society and the Serbian Orthodox Church.

Earlier in August, thousands attended a "pro-family" event backed by a religious procession known as "litije" through the streets of Belgrade, protesting the alleged negative influence of EuroPride on traditional family values.

“It’s not about them being stronger. You simply can’t do everything at one point and that’s that,” Vučić said.

EuroPride is the largest LGBTQ+ event featuring a Pride parade on the continent, hosted by a different European city each year.

European Pride Organisers Association or EPOA, which owns the licence to EuroPride, responded to the Serbian president’s statement by saying that the government cannot legally cancel the event, vowing to hold the Pride parade despite the decision.

“The right to hold Pride has been ruled by the European Court of Human Rights to be a fundamental human right," EPOA President Kristine Garina said in a statement on Saturday.

"Any attempt to ‘ban’ a Pride is a breach of Articles 11, 13 and 14 of the European Convention of Human Rights, ratified by Serbia as a member of the Council of Europe.”

“EuroPride is not cancelled, and will not be cancelled. During the bidding process for EuroPride 2022, 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 honoured,” Garina stated.