The Serbian Interior Ministry backed its earlier decision to ban the EuroPride rally on Saturday despite attempts by organizers to find a solution by proposing an alternative route through the capital, Belgrade.
“Because of a number of lies, plans and attempts to humiliate the Republic of Serbia, its legal system and institutions, I would like to inform the citizens of Serbia that no one has given up, and the Ministry of Internal Affairs in particular, the pressure of the great powers in the West,” Interior Minister Aleksandar Vulin said on Friday.
“As mentioned earlier, the ban on the rally organized by Eurobride 2022 is still in effect,” he said.
EuroPride organizers have proposed a new route to their march in Belgrade, after Serbia banned a LGBTQ+ rights demonstration earlier this week, citing security concerns.
The proposed change shortened the original track, a move that organizers described as a major compromise.
“We have tried on our part to do something. There is a red line, which is that it is impossible not to hold a parade. This is very important,” said Goran Milic, coordinator of EuroPride.
“We discussed with the authorities the various options that exist, but no agreement was reached.”
The organizers also collected nearly 30,000 signatures on a petition calling on the government to lift the ban.
“More than 29,000 people from 123 countries around the world have shown their solidarity with the LGBTQ+ community here in Belgrade, by signing the petition we just made,” said Matthew Beard, CEO of All Out.
Serbian police originally claimed potential clashes with far-right and counter-religious protests on Saturday – which were also banned – were the reason for the decision.
Since late August, conservative groups have been demonstrating against the LGBTQ+ community, EuroPride events and Saturday’s rally.
And while Serbia has made gains for the LGBTQ+ community since the 2001 pride parade turned violent – with annual parades taking place in Belgrade since 2014 – anti-LGBT sentiment continues to prevail.
Although Serbian law prohibits discrimination against LGBTQ+, the state has yet to legalize same-sex marriage or allow parenting rights for same-sex couples.
Despite the ban on the EuroPride rally, organizers are still planning to hold the event on Saturday. “If it’s banned, we’ll walk with it,” Milic said.
The Council of Europe, the continent’s highest human rights body, and members of the European Parliament in Brussels called on the Serbian authorities to allow the march to go ahead.