HomeLatest NewsSerbia's opposition, rights group Europride, condemned the decision

Serbia’s opposition, rights group Europride, condemned the decision

Opposition parties have condemned populist President Aleksandar Vucic’s decision to cancel next month’s pan-European LGBTQ Europride events.

Opposition parties have condemned populist President Aleksandar Vucic’s decision to cancel next month’s pan-European LGBTQ Europride events.

Serbia’s opposition and international rights groups condemned on Sunday populist President Aleksandar Vucic’s decision to cancel next month’s pan-European LGBTQ Europride event because of what he said was a threat from right-wing extremists.

Most groups said they would ignore the ban announced Saturday by Vucic and go ahead with the scheduled 12-18 events in the capital, Belgrade.

Vucic said a political crisis with Serbia’s former breakaway province of Kosovo, which declared independence in 2008, and economic problems facing the country amid Russia’s war in Ukraine were among the reasons the Balkan country’s authorities were unable to organize Europride.

The UN office in Serbia said it was concerned about the announced ban, saying it would jeopardize “the right to freedom of assembly guaranteed by the Constitution of Serbia”.

“Europride is an opportunity to celebrate the foundations of a strong and progressive society based on social justice, equality of all rights, solidarity, friendship and love,” said Fran├žois Jacob, UN Resident Coordinator in Serbia.

Members of the European Pride Organizers Association chose the Serbian capital three years ago to host the annual event, hoping it would represent a major breakthrough for a Slavic country traditionally conservative and under the strong influence of the Orthodox Church.

Serbia is officially seeking EU membership, but has been moving closer to Russia’s political orbit for years. The Balkan country has voted for a UN resolution condemning Russia’s aggression in Ukraine, but has refused to join Western sanctions against Moscow.

In a protest called before the Pride event was canceled, thousands of right-wing church supporters marched through the Serbian capital on Sunday evening in what they said was “to save Serbia.” They were led by the Serbian branch of the Night Wolves, a Russian biker group believed to be close to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The opposition Civic Democratic Forum accused the Serbian president of “playing dictator” by modeling himself after Putin and trying to ban the Belgrade Pride event.

Civic Democratic leader Zoran Vuletic said in a statement that the party wanted to remind Vucic that “he cannot cancel an event he did not schedule and he cannot prohibit the gathering of people according to the constitution.”

Vucic announced the decision to cancel EuroPride celebrations during a press conference on Saturday where he also proposed extending the term of Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnavic, who is a lesbian.

Branavic has often been accused by Serbian gay rights groups of doing nothing to help their situation in Serbia during his first two terms in government. He joined Vucic in supporting the cancellation of the Europride event.

“Any way you spin it, any way you look at it, the first inviolable thing is to ensure peace and stability in the country,” Brnavik said.

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