Words: Markus Bidaux
Belgrade won the bid to host EuroPride 2022 on Saturday 21 September. The capital of Serbia beat bids from Barcelona, Dublin and Portugal to host the event.
In 2017, Serbia, which like most of Eastern Europe is a traditionally conservative, elected Prime Minister Ana Brnabic, an out lesbian. Despite this, the LGBTQ communities in Serbia still lack equal rights.
EuroPride’s are typically seen as mass parties, but the decision of the European Pride Organisers Association to award Belgrade EuroPride 2022 is sure to bring Pride back to its roots as a protest.
The four competing Prides had gathered in Bilbao Spain for the announcement of the winner and to celebrate at a gala dinner in the city’s Guggenheim Museum.
Attitude’s Travel Editor was at the event and spoke to Belgrade’s Pride Coordinator, Marko Mihailovic, about the win.
Why do you think you won the bid to host EuroPride 2022?
Belgrade has won Europe Pride 2022 because we've put so much effort to come out of a situation that was very hard. A lot of violence, a lot of discrimination, lack of understanding of basic needs and basic concepts of human rights.
We fought so hard for first Pride was in 2001, the first for all the Balkan region, and ended up not being successful. We had a lot of extreme right wing extremists that caused all the violence.
The police were unprepared, the organisers was unprepared. So we fought very hard for 20 years to come out of that situation and to now have consecutive Belgrade Pride the last six years.
How many Pride have you had since 2001?
After 2001, our next attempt was in 2009, when it got banned and the ban was deemed unconstitutional by the Constitutional Court of Serbia. In 2010 we had a successful pride in the terms that 600 activists got to walk the Pride.
There were 10,000 policemen protecting them with tents on the street. But there were 10,000 hooligans attacking the policeman. About 264 arrests were made and more than 300 police members were hurt.
So it led to Pride being unconstitutionally banned for the next three years. Then in 2014, we had a very safe Pride and ever since then we've never had an incident.
It's been growing constantly from about 600 people to now we're above 2000 people, which is very small for a city of almost 1.7 million.
But the level of homophobia and the concept of homosexuality being used by the media and propaganda is dominated by a lack of freedom of expression was noticeable.
And being gay was used to describe somebody as being the worst he can be. We have fought hard to change the public perception and nowadays, we even have an out lesbian Prime Minister.
But the problem is, on the legislative side, no matter how much this is a society has gone forward, and it has moved on substantially, we still lack basic legislative solutions that says the right to marry or be legally registered in the same sex relationship.
How are you feeling about winning the bid?
For us, this has been a validation of the efforts we've been putting on for many years, we're very happy and excited and we're ready to host EuroPride in 2022.
This year, we just had Belgrade Pride last week on the 15 September and we had over 80 events during Pride Week. So we are logistically fully ready to take on EuroPride.
But our goal is to show the problems of the Western Balkans and show the solidarity and the network we have built.
And we want to move the last frontier from Europe, and that is the Western Balkans and also show solidarity with the community in Turkey and the ex-Soviet Republics that are facing threats to their lives.
So the whole goal of EuroPride 2022 in Belgrade is to show solidarity with the people in Europe that are fighting for their lives and basic rights.
What is going to be your main challenge?
Our main challenge is going to be the to tackle the traditional patriarchal society of the Western Balkans.
But we truly hope that with the help of our friends from Western and North-Eastern Europe, actually all the European Pride Organizers will work together on overcoming those issues and creating an image that's based on reality.
That LGBT+ people are as human as anybody and the systematic discrimination that we're facing is something we need to overcome in order to move the whole of society forward.
The battle for the advancement of the human rights of the LGBT+ community is the battle to make this society better for everybody.
Do you have anything already planned for EuroPride 2022?
Our main focus will be the conference of human rights, the theme that we've been developing since 2016.
We are backed by a Swedish Global NGOs, Civil Rights Defenders that has pledged to support Belgrade Pride and has been supporting it for the past ten years.
We also plan to bring the problems of all the Western Balkan LGBT+ communities not only of Serbia forward and we're sure that the media attention we will get, due to our specific history and socio-political climate, will bring attention to the fact that until we're currently not all equal.
What attendance numbers are you expecting?
We have two years to develop. We've been experiencing steady growth since we started. So we're sure that we'll have a large number of people attending.
This year we had commercial sponsor for the first time and we've had many reassurances that we will get more global sponsors to support Belgrave Pride and EuroPride 2022.
[In the past, we have struggled to get sponsors] because of the rise of populism where sponsors don't want to engage with the hate that's coming from the extreme right and the rise of populism, not only in Western Europe, but all across the globe.
With their help, our numbers will expand rapidly. We don't want to be precise, but we think it will be tens of thousands of people attending in 2022.