Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić said the EuroPride festival will not be held in Belgrade as planned in September, citing the “significant crisis in Kosovo.”
The announcement came as a surprise to organizers of the pan-European pride celebration. The festival was originally scheduled to take place September 12-18 in the Serbian capital.
EuroPride is an independently organized event hosted in a different city each year, with the host city chosen either for its political significance or the size of the city’s LGBT community.
“We were shocked by this announcement,” said Marko Mihailovic, an organizer of the Belgrade Pride parade involved in this year’s EuroPride festival. He went on to say that organizers had met with government and city authorities as recently as Thursday this week as part of planning discussions for the event.
“This is quite the defeat for Serbia,” Mihailovic said. “Now when we have an event of European proportions organized in Belgrade and a lot of people have announced their attendance and bought tickets, it’s being canceled.”
Tensions between Kosovo and Serbia flared in recent weeks in relation to an ongoing license plates row. Barricades were erected, and shots fired at Kosovo police. On Saturday evening, the EU said an agreement had been reached between the two countries to resolve the border issue.
Serbia does not recognize Kosovo’s sovereignty as a former province. Kosovo declared independence in 2008, after ethnic tensions and the marginalization of the country’s ethnic Albanian population led to an armed conflict in the late 1990s. The conflict ultimately led to the bombing of Serbia and Montenegro by NATO forces.
Amid the ongoing invasion of Ukraine by Russia, there are fears that unresolved tensions between Serbia and Kosovo, combined with Serbia’s close ties with Russia, could lead to a return to region-wide conflict.
Vučić says he is “not happy” with the decision to cancel EuroPride, but that “we can’t do it all at once.”
“Of course this jeopardizes minority rights and that is a problem for us, but at this moment the state is pressured by all kinds of problems,” Vučić said.
Mihailovic says authorities routinely fail to defend the LGBT community in Serbia, with right-wing groups and hooligans regularly targeting events, activists and their offices.
“For decades, the LGBT+ community has been demonized in mainstream narratives in the country, and there is little to no condemnation for the hate speech and hate crimes directed towards it,” Mihailovic said.
The Serbian Orthodox bishop even “cast a curse” on those supporting the EuroPride event, and called for gun violence against participants.
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