by William Nattrass
Tuesday, 30
August 2022
Analysis
13:00

Cancelled Pride parade draws unwanted attention to Serbia

Is the country is embroiled in a proxy war between West and East?
by William Nattrass
A planned EuroPride event in Belgrade has been cancelled by the Serbian government. Credit: Getty

Aside from the occasional trans-related controversy, Pride parades in western Europe tend to go ahead without much fuss. But in the East, they are far more contentious. In Serbia, a storm has been brewing over the international EuroPride event planned to be held in Belgrade in September, and this weekend the Serbian government finally announced that the parade would be cancelled. 

The exact nature of the cancellation remains unclear — Prime Minister Ana Brnabić, who is openly gay, characterised it as “more of a plea” than an outright ban. But President Aleksandar Vučić’s announcement that the event would not take place sounded final: he said that amid intense pressures against the event “you can’t have everything, and that’s it”. 

EuroPride’s organisers insist they will go ahead anyway, calling the cancellation unconstitutional as “the right to hold Pride has been ruled by the European Court of Human Rights to be a fundamental human right”.  

It may appear as though Vučić and his government have taken a stridently reactionary position, but the truth is more complicated. Vučić was at pains to stress that he did not cancel EuroPride for ideological reasons, saying he is “not happy” about the decision, as it “of course jeopardises minority rights”.  

Yet in the end, the government could not ignore the strength of feeling against EuroPride in conservative Serbian society. Thousands took to the streets in August to protest against the event. Criticisms from the Serbian Orthodox Church verged on incitements to violence; one bishop “cursed” EuroPride organisers and participants, saying that it would “desecrate the city of Belgrade, the holy Serbian city,” before adding that “if I had a weapon, I would use it”.  

Vučić condemned these remarks, saying they “humiliated our church”. Yet the potential for civil strife is palpable, and the government claims the danger is being heightened by volatile geopolitical circumstances. 

The choice between West and East facing Serbia is starker than ever. Belgrade’s refusal to recognise Kosovo — the insurmountable obstacle to Serbia’s integration into the Western order — has been highlighted by tensions over proposed new travel rules with the breakaway state. Meanwhile, Vučić is walking a tightrope over the Ukraine war, refusing to sanction Russia while continuing to affirm an EU future for Serbia. 

Such issues might seem unrelated to a Pride parade, but the event is being explicitly framed as a manifestation of the choice between West and East. According to the organisers, the parade would “allow Serbia to show that it is on the road to being a progressive, welcoming European nation”. The EU ambassador to Serbia meanwhile warned that equality and non-discrimination are “fundamental rights which we expect our closest partners to uphold”. 

And as is the case throughout eastern Europe, support for LGBT freedoms more generally is inextricably linked with affiliation to the West. Indeed, in this region, LGBT rights are seen as more representative than any other issue of modern Western ideology. They are, therefore, heavily implicated in the “proxy war” which Vučić says is now being waged in Serbia between East and West. 

In this context, a reluctant cancellation of EuroPride may be another attempt by the Serbian government to maintain its awkward neutrality in international affairs: a neutrality which reflects popular divisions. But as pressures mount at home and abroad, the balancing act looks increasingly precarious. 

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Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
26 days ago

Many countries outside the West are witnessing the cultural damage of LGBQT politics. While I don’t condone the violence, I do understand their reluctance to celebrate these individuals. Not entirely sure why it’s called ‘pride’ either. What have they actually done to be proud about?

Andrew D
Andrew D
26 days ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

And of course pride is the greatest of all sins

Ludwig van Earwig
Ludwig van Earwig
26 days ago
Reply to  Andrew D

Yes indeed. A quick-thinking Serbian PM might have used that justification for the cancellation.

Ross Little
Ross Little
25 days ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

Because, Julian Farrows, in a world where it is still illegal to be gay in many countries and strident homophobia exists in countries where it is not, pride is a reminder that gay people not only exist but that they don’t need to be forced to conform. Who exactly do you think you are to assess ‘these individuals’? Why should they find themselves having to conform to your standards? The damage, I’m afraid is caused by people like you with bigoted ideas and a world view that says different is wrong. And please try to engage your brain before your biases when you say things like ‘damage of LGBQT politics’. Do you really think that all gay people are of the same political ideology, or do you think (notwithstanding your ignorance), that the voices you take to represent an entire section of humanity are a tiny but highly vocal minority that even the majority of LGBQT people find ridiculous? Did it ever occur to you (as though I don’t already know the answer), that gay people might not see themselves as part of the same movement as the Qs and the Ts, in any event? You play a very clever game by identifying the populist cause célèbre in all this and extending that to an entire swathe of humanity, but your bigotry is clear and, quite frankly Julian Farrows, people like you are the very reason that pride must exist.

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
25 days ago
Reply to  Ross Little

No such word as homophobia.. if anything it means ” phobia of the single” so is a medical condition and by definition, not a voluntary attitude, and it might be argued that it is illegal to be gay in more countries than it is legal. However, I unconditionally support the freedom and right of anyone to be gay, but am bored senseless by the tedious, and vociferous lobby groups who appear to want more than mere peaceful and untroubled legal equality… and who are the main reason as to why there is so much anti gay sentiment

Ross Little
Ross Little
25 days ago

Did you read what I wrote? It’s factually incorrect that homosexuality is illegal in more countries than it is legal, I’m afraid. And whilst I don’t agree with all of this woke nonsense, my response was to Julian Farrows above who took it upon himself to malign an entire swathe of people with his barbed comments…

Last edited 25 days ago by Ross Little
Alessia Carmen
Alessia Carmen
25 days ago
Reply to  Ross Little

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Last edited 25 days ago by Alessia Carmen
Lillian Fry
Lillian Fry
25 days ago
Reply to  Ross Little

The normalization of homosexuality was promoted with the argument that “we” are just like you. We want love, stability, families, a secure future. Unabashed kink in the streets, which these parades often become, and now accompanied by monkey pox outbreaks, belies this picture and needs to be addressed by the gay community itself.

Julian Townsend
Julian Townsend
25 days ago
Reply to  Lillian Fry

The “gay community”, or LBGTQIWTF+ as you should now call it, is far too busy excluding whorephobes and kink-shamers and transphobes, to take a look at itself and what it has allowed Pride parades to become.

Ross Little
Ross Little
25 days ago

Evidence for that assertion? Did you read what I wrote? The VAST MAJORITY of gay people don’t agree with that either… but NOOOOOOOOOOOOO you people bang on about your stereotypes…

Ross Little
Ross Little
25 days ago
Reply to  Lillian Fry

Did you read what I actually wrote Lillian? Apparently I need to spell it out. You can’t contain your bigotry and homophobia can you? You want love, stability, families and a secure future. It’s time to grow up and realise that that is what the vast majority of gay people also want. You take a tiny minority and tar everyone with same brush. And you think gay people should apologise to people like you??? Who do you think you are to say what’s right? What you ignorant, self important and bigoted individuals need to realise is that gay people owe you nothing and they are every bit as capable of looking at your life with disdain. And to bring monkeypox into matters is a low blow… is that your argument that it’s not ‘natural’. A very poor argument. It’s such a shame that people like you are filled with such vile hate – why don’t we just go the whole hog and say women who get cervical cancer were asking for it? HPV? It’s time to grow up and realise your petty little world view of stereotypes is utter BS.

Douglas H
Douglas H
25 days ago
Reply to  Ross Little

Ross, you make some very good points but you would be more persuasive if you did not insult people and if you did not ascribe motives (such as hate) to them, however wrong they may be.

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
24 days ago
Reply to  Douglas H

So it’s ok for other commenters to be homophobic and insult him but Ross has to manage his language. This is the most homophobic comment here! Maybe you should tell uppity black people to keep quiet too? Much nicer when they know their place, isn’t it.

Last edited 24 days ago by Ian Stewart
Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
25 days ago
Reply to  Ross Little

All one needs to know about your respect for views that you disagree with are neatly encompassed above, as you whine about those who do not agree with you!

Ross Little
Ross Little
25 days ago

Argumentum ad hominem much???? We are not debating the respect for views…. keep it on topic, or keep it shut…

Adrian Maxwell
Adrian Maxwell
25 days ago
Reply to  Ross Little

I suspect your down ticks are a function of the triumph of form over content.

Ross Little
Ross Little
25 days ago
Reply to  Adrian Maxwell

I suspect your comment sounds like BS.

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
24 days ago
Reply to  Adrian Maxwell

No his downticks are those of the intolerant.

Julian Townsend
Julian Townsend
25 days ago
Reply to  Ross Little

Whilst in the oh-so-enlightened West, gay people are excluded from the Pride parades they invented, if they will not accept that people can change sex by a mysterious and unquestionable process called “identifying as”. How dare they define themselves as same-sex attracted? They are openly saying that straight “queers” are not gay, the bigots! How dare they want a gay movement for gay people? So exclusive…

Ross Little
Ross Little
25 days ago

Finally, you actually read what I wrote… Jesus… you people…

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
24 days ago
Reply to  Ross Little

Just to support your view Ross, and you’ve really nailed it with Julian and those who downvoted you. Unfortunately Unherd still has fairly traditional readers who are bigoted when they lump gays together, just like those who lump blacks together and, more typically in this forum, Jews.

R Wright
R Wright
25 days ago

It’s a sad thing that pushing your identity onto others (and their children) is now considered the signature of western society and its decadence.

Mirax Path
Mirax Path
26 days ago

It is wrong to cancel a scheduled and lawful event on the basis of violent threats. Religious figures who invoke the spectre of violence must be dealt with. Peaceful counter protests and reasoned arguments against LGBT over-reach – that certainly exists in the case of trans ‘rights’ and demands to end conversion therapy- is the way to go.

Max Price
Max Price
25 days ago

This could get really ugly.

Paul Hellyer
Paul Hellyer
25 days ago

Gay pride marches are a public display of depravity.
They should be banned because children will see them and think its normal and thereby will become corrupted. .

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
24 days ago
Reply to  Paul Hellyer

Quite funny that all sorts of comments get reviewed by Unherd, and attract comments, and your comment has generated no response from Unherd readers except me. What does that say about the Unherd readership values?

tom j
tom j
25 days ago

Aside from the occasional trans-related controversy, Pride parades in western Europe tend to go ahead without much fuss.”
Aside from that, Mrs Lincoln, how did you enjoy the play?

ralph bell
ralph bell
25 days ago

Surely a country can prioritise safety of its population and civil unrest by the majority over a minority human right however important that might be. They are on their own journey lets face it anti lockdown protests were made illegal in many countries including the UK despite our human right to protest!!!

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
25 days ago

All I know about Serbia is that, according to former Household Division Officers who encountered female ” translators” ( very skilled at extracting ‘ over the pillow intelligence”)during the Kosovo emergency, and I know of at least 2 who ended up marrying them, that they are utterly and compellingly gorgeous.

Ross Little
Ross Little
25 days ago

Insightful comment…

William Hickey
William Hickey
25 days ago

The comedian Norm MacDonald pondered that same question during an interview with fellow Saturday Night Live alum Dennis Miller
https://youtu.be/F7PFdF3J0TE