Serbia won't allow a pan-European LGBTQ Pride event to take place in Belgrade next month, the president said Saturday, citing threats from right-wing extremists and fears of clashes. Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic announced the decision to cancel the Sept. 12-18 EuroPride celebration during a news conference, in which he also proposed extending the term of Serbia's prime minister, who identifies as a lesbian, per the AP. Members of the European Pride Organizers Association chose Serbia's capital three years ago to host the annual event. Vucic said a crisis with neighboring Kosovo and various economic problems were among the reasons why the Balkan nation's authorities didn't think they could handle EuroPride, which features a Pride parade.
"This is a violation of minority rights, but at this moment the state is pressured by numerous problems," he said. "I am not happy about it, but we can't manage." Vucic added that the celebration could be postponed for "happier times," insisting that state authorities must plan instead for energy problems anticipated for the winter, partly as a result of Russia's war in Ukraine. Serbia has pledged to protect LGBTQ rights as it seeks EU membership, but increasingly vocal right-wing supporters harass and sometimes attack people based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. Serbia's right-wing and pro-Russian groups have gained strength in the past several years, and some secured parliament seats during the country's April general election. Several thousand people recently joined a march in Belgrade against LGBTQ pride.
After Belgrade's 2010 Pride march produced clashes, subsequent marches took place with strong police protection. EuroPride was first celebrated in London in 1992, and Belgrade was set to be the first city in southeast Europe to host the event, according to organizers. Next month’s event was expected to attract thousands of people from throughout Europe. Vucic also said Saturday that Ana Brnabic, who has led the previous two governments in Serbia, should lead the new Cabinet that's expected to be formed in the coming weeks. Brnabic first became Serbia's prime minister in 2017, in what was seen as a major change for the predominantly conservative, male-dominated nation. Brnabic lives with her female partner, but LGBTQ groups have criticized her, saying she's done little to improve the position of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer individuals in Serbian society.
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