Birgitta Ohlsson Participates in Belgrade Pride

Between 30 September and 6 October a Pride festival will again be organised in the Serbian capital Belgrade. Swedish Minister for EU-affairs Birgitta Ohlsson is one of the opening speakers.

“Pride parades are a litmus test for freedom in Europe. For me, as Minister for EU-affairs and as representative of Sweden, it is extremely important to show solidarity with all the victims of persecution who can not show their love openly,” says Birgitta Ohlsson.

Civil Rights Defenders has been working against discrimination of vulnerable groups and for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) equality and rights in the Balkans for over a decade. The organisation is one of the main organisers of Pride and a unifying factor for the Serbian LGBT community.

“Birgitta Ohlsson’s participation in Belgrade Pride is an important gesture of solidarity, at a time when it is difficult or even impossible to organise Pride festivals in many parts of Europe. It strengthens local activists and sends a clear signal to the Serbian authorities that the world sees what is happening and that politicians from countries like Sweden care about the respect for human rights in Serbia,” says Robert Hårdh, Civil Rights Defenders Executive Director, who will travel to Belgrade together with Birgitta Ohlsson.

Last year, the National Security Council banned all public manifestations on the current weekend, including the Pride parade, on the grounds that national security was endangered. The National Security Council is made up of Serbia’s President, Prime Minister, Minister of Justice, Defense Minister, Minister of the Interior and some of the top leaders in the army and security services.

In 2010 the police protected participants from more than 5,000 violent counter-demonstrators, and the damage to property was estimated at more than 1 million Euro. In 2009 the parade was cancelled after threats from extremist groups.

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