The European Pride Organisers Association has written to the President of Georgia Salomé Zourabichvili, and Prime Minister of Georgia Mamuka Bakhtadza to demand protections for Tbilisi Pride this weekend.
Dear President Zourabichvili and Prime Minister Bakhtadza
Last weekend, the President of Austria Dr Alexander van der Bellen spoke at EuroPride in Vienna and said that LGBTI equality is an essential tenet of European democracy and human rights. I am writing to you today to appeal to your good sense and duty as the President and Prime Minister of Georgia, to ask that you take immediate action to protect your citizens attending Tbilisi Pride this weekend.
Very serious concerns have already been expressed by international agencies, civil society organisations, and world politicians about the safety of participants at the Pride this weekend. The very real and explicit threats made to Tbilisi Pride participants by religious and far right fundamentalists are an affront to basic human rights and democratic values.
European and world communities will look very dimly upon Georgia if the Pride is not protected, and if participants in the Pride are allowed to be attacked. I urge you both:
To condemn utterly and unreservedly the statements of Levan Vasadze and others calling for violence and restrictions against Pride participants;
To ensure that the police and security services are properly resourced and deployed to protect the Pride, the and its participants; and
To require government agencies to work with the Pride organisers in the future, to develop a strategy for the safe and successful manifestations of Pride in the future.
A country whose anthem is titled ‘Freedom’ and whose motto is ‘Strength is in Unity’ cannot allow people exercising their basic human rights to be threatened and attacked. I appeal to you both to please act now.
This week, Vienna will share Pride far beyond its borders
As Prides face increasing hostility and challenges, and LGBTI equality in central Europe still has a long way to go, this week’s EuroPride in Vienna will give hope beyond Austria’s borders, writes Kristine Garina, President of the European Pride Organisers Association.
This weekend, hundreds of thousands of people from across Europe will march along Vienna’s Ringstrasse as EuroPride 2019 becomes the biggest LGBTI event Austria has ever seen. But the impact of this year’s EuroPride will be felt way beyond the Austrian borders, as it becomes a symbol of hope for the millions of LGBTI people living in the region.
only too well the transformative effect of Pride, and especially EuroPride.
Back in 2012, as the leaders of Latvia’s only LGBTI organisation, we made an
ambitious bid to bring EuroPride to a former Soviet country for the first time.
And we won, beating cities with long-established Prides including Barcleona and
years later, in June 2015, we delivered EuroPride in Riga. In the decade since
the first Pride – when we were attacked with missiles and where those opposing
Pride on mainly religious grounds outnumbered us several times over – we had
overcome political, social and religious barriers to host Europe’s most
important LGBTI event, and many thousands of people travelled from across
Europe to show their support. The impact continues to be felt; last year the
numbers attending Baltic Pride in Riga were double those who’d attended
EuroPride three years earlier.
Of course, Austria is far ahead of Latvia when it comes to LGBTI equality. Rainbow Europe, which ranks all European countries based on various measures of LGBTI equality, places Austria thirteenth, whilst Latvia languishes in fortieth place – the poorest performance of any EU nation. But Austria’s geographic location at the heart of central Europe and with several countries with poor LGBTI records within a short drive from Vienna, means that EuroPride this year has a special importance.
only to go back to Rainbow Europe to see how difficult the situation is in neighbouring
countries. Thirteenth place Austria nestles amongst those with far worse
records for LGBTI equality, with Hungary, Slovakia, Slovenia, and the Czech
Republic among them. Austria’s proximity to these countries was one of the
reasons our members voted for Vienna to host this year’s event. Organisers of
EuroPride in Vienna anticipate many visitors from these countries later this
week, and activists from many eastern European countries will participate in
human rights seminars throughout the week.
This can’t come at a more important time. Just weeks ago the President of the city of Gniezno, Poland, attempted to ban the Pride, an attempt overturned at court. The court’s decision was a surprise to no-one, especially as a case against Poland at the European Court of Human Rights had ruled in 2007 that bans on Prides were contrary to the Convention, but the Gniezno Equality March was just the latest in a long line of Prides facing increasing attacks from the far right and nationalist groups.
Georgian government authorities said last week that they can’t guarantee the safety of this month’s Tbilisi Pride, and rather than protecting their citizens’ right to march, they urged organisers to cancel. Prides in Istanbul and Ankara continue to face bans and challenges, despite international pressure. New Prides in Skopje and Sarajevo are facing opposition from religious and nationalist groups. Baltic Pride in Vilnius – which I attended at the weekend just gone – faced legal challenges from opponents who attempted to stop the event. Indeed, in both Latvia and Lithuania, we have so learned to expect legal challenges that we actually prepare our legal responses well in advance, so we are ready to file them the moment our opponents launch their spurious objections.
clear that the western European view that Pride in 2019 is just a party
couldn’t be more wrong. Pride is an
essential and important opportunity for LGBTI people to say ‘we are here, and
we demand fundamental rights and freedoms’, and its fifty year history shows
the impact it can have as a vehicle for change. EuroPride in Vienna, sitting at
the heart of Europe, will give hope and opportunity far beyond Austria’s
borders. The high level support for the event will reinforce that.
The political and strategic importance of EuroPride in Vienna is not lost on national leaders and representatives. President Alexander Van der Bellen will become the first head of state ever to attend or speak at a EuroPride. Many of the diplomatic missions in Vienna will hold receptions, and Diplomats for Equality will be in their largest ever number in the Rainbow Parade on Saturday. Many parliamentarians including MEPs will also join the Parade.
Once the Parade is over, on Saturday evening the organising team in Vienna will hand over the EuroPride Quilt to the hosts for 2020, Thessaloniki in Greece. As EuroPride heads to south-eastern Europe and the Western Balkans for the first time, it’s my real hope that the message from Vienna this week is that we are united, together, for LGBTI equality for everyone, wherever they are. We all deserve to have Pride.
The President of the Polish city of Gniezno has banned the Pride event due to take place this weekend. The decision is illegal, contravening both a European Court of Human Rights judgment and the Constitution of the Republic of Poland.
Kristine Garina, President of the European Pride Organisers Association, has written to the city’s President urging him to reconsider. The letter states:
Your decision breaches fundamental freedoms and human rights of LGBTI people in Gniezno, and presents a poor impression of Poland across the world.
As you will be aware, the European Court of Human Rights ruled in 2007 in the case of Poland v Backowski that the banning of a Pride march in Warsaw was a breach of Articles 11, 13 and 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights. In addition, Article 57 of the Constitution of the Republic of Poland also provides protection for citizens and allows them the freedom to organise peaceful assembly.
Peaceful, successful Pride marches have taken place in Poland for many years, including EuroPride Warsaw in 2010. There is no justification for restricting the right of LGBTI people in Gniezno – or anywhere in Poland – to come together peacefully and to hold a Pride event. The only possible reason for attempting to ban such an event is homophobia, biphobia and transphobia.
We urge you to reconsider your illegal decision, allow the event to take place this weekend, and commit to ensuring that police and other authorities provide appropriate protection to ensure the safety of the participants.
We will continue to monitor the situation in the coming days, and offer our full support to the organisers.
EuroPride 2022 will be the thirtieth anniversary of the first EuroPride, and the fiftieth anniversary of the first Prides in Europe. EuroPride has been hosted in more than twenty cities across Europe, beginning in London in 1992, and this year takes place in Vienna, Austria, from 1st to 16th June. Recent hosts include Riga (2015), Amsterdam (2016), Madrid (2017), and Stockholm and Gothenburg (2018).
Each of the bids will be presented at the annual general meeting of the European Pride Organisers Association (EPOA), taking place in Bilbao, Spain, in September. Every member organisation has one vote.
Kristine Garina, President of the European Pride Organisers Association, said:
“This year the Pride movement marks fifty years since the Stonewall uprising in New York that led to the birth of our movement, and so it’s wonderful that we have such excitement and interest in EuroPride in such an important year.”
“I know that all the bids for EuroPride 2022 will have human rights, LGBTI equality and political campaigns at their heart. Pride is a movement for fairness and equality, and I am excited to see the bids and to find out who will host Europe’s most important LGBTI event in 2022!”
Juan Julià, President of Barcelona Pride, said:
“Barcelona is a unique city that captivates those who visit it with its cosmopolitan character, its Mediterranean climate and its artistic and cultural legacy. Barcelona is creative, open, friendly, dynamic, cosmopolitan, inclusive. And above all, it is a diverse city with values.
“That is why it marked the beginning of the LGBTI movement in Spain, housing the first demonstration of the country in its streets. And, for the same reason, the rainbow flags continue to wave proudly on the balconies throughout the city.
“EuroPride Barcelona would be the culmination of an evolving LGBTI project, with a festive and cultural program that grows each year accompanied by powerful social campaigns. And most importantly it would mean the opportunity to show that the people of Barcelona are the best hosts; we proved it in the past and we are ready to prove it again!”
Goran Miletić, of Belgrade Pride, said:
“Serbia is still fighting institutionalised homophobia and transphobia as well as lack of acceptance in the general public. Although the status quo is not yet favorable towards sexual and gender minorities, we have made substantial progress, making Belgrade Pride the biggest in all non-EU countries in the region.
“Although the first Prides in 2001 and 2010 were met with violence, and the Prides of 2009 and 2011/12/13 were banned by the government – the activists have fought long and hard to successfully organise since 2014. Belgrade Pride has grown to become safe, diverse and a hub for activists from the whole region.
“Our community needs to grow stronger and EuroPride 2022 is crucial in helping us in that mission. EuroPride will draw greater attention to the unique problems the LGBT+ people are facing in the Balkans.”
Jed Dowling, Festival Director of Dublin Pride, said:
“2022 will mark a hundred years of Irish independence. Hosting EuroPride will celebrate two of the most important influences on the development of our country, Europe and Pride. Dublin had its first Pride event around the time we joined the EU. Since we embraced both, we have become one of the most progressive cities in the world. We are a technology and business hub for Europe, but we are also a city that overwhelmingly voted to support marriage equality in 2015, and a woman’s right to choose in 2018. Dublin Pride has grown from a dozen people to over 100,000 taking part in our event.”
“By hosting EuroPride in 2022 we will show that we can celebrate all the benefits of being part of something bigger and at the same time celebrate our independence and individuality. And of course, as this is Dublin, we can guarantee that the craic will be mighty.”
Marta Ramos and Carlos Sanches Ruivo, Co-Chairs of Portugal’s application for EuroPride 2022, said:
“In 2019, Portugal tied for first place among the world’s LGBTI-friendly travel destinations. Portugal’s rapid progress in recognising LGBTI rights—particularly for a small, conservative country—can inform and inspire others. But despite our achievement, hearts and minds still must change in order for us to realise full LGBTI equality and safeguard it for future generations.
“With the Catholic church holding World Youth Day in Portugal in 2022, EuroPride that same year in Portugal would be an important show of visibility and acceptance for LGBTI people young and old, both here and around the globe. Our strong, historic ties can carry that message, especially to Portuguese-speaking countries, and the close-knit network of the worldwide Portuguese diaspora can spread the values we change at home to communities everywhere.”
Emiel Wijnberg, organiser of Winter Pride Maspalomas, said:
“Maspalomas Winter Pride has become one of Europe’s favourite Pride celebrations within just five years of its existence. Gathering thousands of international visitors and being one of the final major Pride celebrations of the year, Maspalomas is the ideal location for EuroPride to show the world what Winter Pride stands for; unity, diversity and freedom.
“Maspalomas offers the ideal circumstances to make this happen with an average temperature of 23 degrees in November, a secure destination with a large selection of hotels, beaches and a society with governments and companies who support our LGBT community. Welcome to Maspalomas, welcome to Gran Canaria, this is your Winter Pride!”
The full bids will be published on Monday 29th July, and the result is expected to be announced on the afternoon of Saturday 21st September.
The first ‘Marsz Równości’ (Equality March) scheduled to take place in the city of Lublin, Poland, this weekend has been cancelled, after the city’s mayor cited ‘security concerns’.
According to news reports, regional governor, Przemysław Czarnek, appointed by the ruling Law & Justice (PiS) party, called on Mayor Krzysztof Żuk to cancel the event. Czarnek accused equality demonstrators of “deviance” and “perversion” and said the march promotes “sexual behaviour incompatible with nature” and “pedophilia”, according to the Poland in English website.
President of the European Pride Organisers Association (EPOA), Kristine Garina, said:
“It is deeply depressing that we keep having to have the same conversations about Poland. Opposition to equality marches in Poland has found its way into European case law on the freedom of assembly, and you would think that eight years after Warsaw hosted EuroPride, attitudes would be changing.
But this is not the case. The Equality March this weekend must be allowed to go ahead. Right-wing and homophobic city officials like Mayor Żuk must realise they cannot stand in the way of LGBTI people’s human rights, even when elections are approaching. We will be watching to see what happens this weekend and we demand that this unlawful ban is lifted.”
The European Pride Organisers Association, the international NGO that licences EuroPride and supports the development of the Pride movement in Europe, will be monitoring developments in the coming days.
The Association has had a productive year, marked by an impressive increase in membership numbers, with a 40% increase over the last twelve months. Our external communications have also seen substantial increases in audience and reach, and EPOA has begun to successfully position itself as the lead organisation to comment on issues related to LGBTI Pride across Europe.
The Board’s achievements sit alongside a hugely successful EuroPride, which for the first time took place in two cities, Stockholm and Gothenburg in Sweden.
The Annual Report will be presented to members at the AGM for approval, alongside a Workplan for the year ahead.