EuroPride begins in Belgrade and passions are running high

Today saw the official launch of the Human Rights Conference that forms a key part of the EuroPride event that is being hosted by Belgrade.

However, things didn’t quite go to plan.

In the hours before the launch of the conference, it was announced that the Ministry of the Interior had withdrawn the authorisation for the EuroPride march – scheduled to be held this Saturday. The reason given by the ministry was that an “anti-globalist” march was planned for the same time – effectively in opposition to EuroPride. It was feared that that the participants of the two marches could clash, so the decision had been taken to withdraw authorisation for both marches on public safety and security grounds.

This made things awkward for Ana Brnabić – the Prime Minister designate of Serbia and a lesbian woman who speaks publicly about her sexuality. She was at the event to launch the Human Rights Conference of EuroPride. It was Brnabić who had signed the letter of support from the government that essentially gave the green light for EuroPride to be held in Belgrade.

But before Brnabić had a chance to take to the stage and deliver her speech, the conference venue erupted in a noisy protest. This wasn’t an anti-EuroPride protest – that was happening outside the heavily policed venue. This was a grassroots LGBTQ community protest reminding everyone that Pride is a protest and criticising Brnabić for not doing enough to protect LGBTQ people as well as failing to advance LGBTQ equality in Serbia.

To her credit, Brnabić held her ground – letting the queer protestors have their voices heard, engaging where possible, and continuing to deliver her speech.

It was a young crowd that had disrupted the event – passionate and angry. Perhaps the ban on the march that was announced earlier in the day had been the tipping point for this outburst, perhaps it was something that would have happened anyway.

Politics in Serbia is not straightforward. A general election was held in April 2022 but it wasn’t until late-August that coalition agreements were concluded and a government could be formed. That’s left a political vacuum at a time when Serbia seems increasingly polarised. Tensions regarding the independence of Kosovo are another point of grievance for a country that seems to be struggling to reconcile its past with its future.

“See you on the streets on Saturday!” shouted a young queer protestor, as Brnabić concluded her speech.

Pride is a protest, and we’re seeing that in action this week in Belgrade with EuroPride.

Follow Gareth Johnson on Twitter

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