EuroPride 2022 - the complicated birth of the first EuroPride in South Eastern Europe
Belgrade hosted EuroPride this weekend, an international event dedicated to the rights of the LGBTIQ+ community. Despite strong opposition from the ultra-right, but also from the Serbian Orthodox Church and parts of the government, the final rally took place in the centre of the Serbian capital on Saturday.
The numbers are frightening: 5,200 police officers, 64 arrests, 13 injured police officers, five damaged police vehicles, several attacks on journalists and civilians and a confusing week full of tensions, with contradictory political statements and judicial decisions. Nevertheless, the birth of the first pan-European EuroPride in Southeast Europe succeeded – even if the birth was difficult and not without complications.
Within the framework of Pride Week, 130 exhibitions, conferences, panel discussions, concerts and other performances took place. The Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom also participated in this week of action: together with the LGBTIQ+ organisation "Da se zna!" ("Make it known!"), the foundation held three "community talks" in which activists addressed political as well as cultural issues and discussed them among themselves.
After the confusion over the presidential ban on the Pride parade, the alleged ban on the route and the re-approved route only hours before the start, the EuroPride parade finally took place – also due to quite a few appeals from the international community, the ambassadors of over twenty EU member states and numerous parliamentarians from all over Europe.
Although Serbian Interior Minister Aleksandar Vulin, who is not known for his tolerance, claimed that the participants had merely been "escorted to a concert", in the end it did not matter: "When minorities are attacked and harassed in a democracy, it is a sign of danger," said Danish EU Parliamentarian Karen Melchior. "It is therefore all the more important a sign that civil society has faced up to it and prevailed in the end."
Although the shortened final walk, held in the rain, took place under heavy police surveillance and sporadic incidents with right-wing activists and hooligans, it actually did take place. Among the participants was also the spouse of Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabić, who said she had "more important things to do". With Karen Melchior and Emma Wiesner, two liberal EU parliamentarians took part in the rally, Tobias Bauschke was present for the FDP. All three took the opportunity to exchange views in depth with partner organisations of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation.
According to the organisers, about 10,000 people from all over Europe took part in this year's EuroPride. Serbia will go down in history as the first Southeast European country to host a European LGBTIQ parade. Nevertheless, it became clear that Serbian society seems to be only partially open to non-standard lifestyles. International pressure alone ensured that fears and deliberately fomented prejudices did not prevail. Despite EuroPride 2022, Serbia still has a long way to go to become a diverse and tolerant society. The Friedrich Naumann Foundation with its partner organisations is working to ensure that all of this will eventually be possible without external pressure.