MEP Maria Walsh urges ‘hallmark’ EuroPride to continue despite vile anti-LGBTQ+ protests

Maria Walsh speaking in the corridor of an office

MEP Maria Walsh has urged EuroPride to continue despite backlash from anti-LGBTQ+ groups.

The Midlands-North-West member of the European Parliament insisted that the Pride festival – which is hosted in a different European city each year – should go ahead as scheduled from 12 to 18 September. This year is was due to be held in Serbia’s capital city, Belgrade.

Official proceedings have been postponed indefinitely by Serbian president Aleksandar Vučić who cited “security concerns” after several right-wing groups threatened to take action if the event were to take place.

“It will happen but in some other and happier time,” he said in a statement, while the Belgrade Pride director Marko Mihailovic said the government couldn’t cancel the event, only “try to ban it”.

The European Pride Organisers Association (EPOA) president Kristine Garina responded to the news, saying the Serbian president could not “cancel someone else’s event”.

As vice-president of the LGBTI intergroup in EU Parliament, Walsh said that sufficient police protection should be established to ensure its safety. In a co-authored letter to president Vučić, which has received support from EU politicians, Walsh called for the Serbian Government to maintain a dialogue with the EU delegation to ensure that an appropriate solution could be found.

‘Peaceful tools for political advocacy’

“Pride demonstrations are a hallmark of LGBTIQ activism and a pillar for social visibility,” Walsh said.

“Equally, they are political demonstrations during which the community voices its concerns, highlights its achievements and gives the opportunity to its members to demonstrate in favour of equality.

“Pride demonstrations are peaceful tools for political advocacy and one way in which the universal right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly is crystallised.”

Proceedings became tense after a group of religious right-wing protestors marched in Belgrade on 28 August to protest EuroPride. It was led by clergy from the Serbian Orthodox Church, and attended by several other groups sharing similar sentiments.

Some held signs saying things like “save our children,” while others carried crosses and banners of significant religious figures. Bishops in the march told journalists that the event threatened their view of traditional family values.

Serbia was selected to stage the Pride event after several peaceful Serbian Pride parades had been successful.

In a letter to the EPOA, prime minister Ana Brnabić wrote: “The government I lead is committed to ensuring the full respect of human rights and of all citizens and we hereby promise to help the Belgrade Pride organising team in ensuring a safe and successful organisation of EuroPride in Belgrade in 2022.”

Serbia is in negotiations to join the EU and these have involved human rights reforms, as well as lifting bans on Pride parades, which garnered criticism from several EU human rights organisations.