Monday

21st May 2018

Opinion

Pride 2016: Let's not turn back time

  • Events in Gdansk showed how fragility of EU progress on gay rights (Photo: Maria Komarova)

The Pride march itself was surrounded by a heavy police presence. At first, the counter-protests were not disruptive; but later in the march a small group found their way down a side street and attempted to run towards us. Then the riot police intervened, arrested counter-protestors and fired tear gas …

In ILGA-Europe’s 20th anniversary year, you would imagine that this is an extract from our archive. During the past two decades, we have made a lot of progress in making sure that people can enjoy basic rights in Europe. In many countries, activists’ agendas have shifted and they are now working to advance other legal and social issues.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • Pride marches, as in Amsterdam, should be cherished by European cities (Photo: Bob Lefevere)

But this is not a clip from an LGBTI activist talking about their experiences two decades ago.

This is part of a discussion I had with my colleagues after returning from Poland very recently. It is a glimpse of what the participants in Gdansk’s second-ever Pride march experienced on Saturday 21 May.

Prior to the march, ILGA-Europe had received reports from the Pride organisers that up to 14 counter-protests had been allowed. The local organisers kept us well-informed of the situation on the ground and worked with the city council and law enforcement officials to make sure the event could go ahead.

The local authorities cooperated, although this meant that the counter-protestors were also allowed to protest on the very same square as where the march started. Dozens of heavily equipped police officers separated both groups. It also meant that the march was rerouted and ended in an empty park outside the city centre, to the frustration of local activists.

Shock was not the overwhelming reaction I had. I went home inspired by the courage of our activist friends in Poland, but suffering from an acute sense of deja vu. Why do I get the feeling that we have been here before?

LGBTI organisations have had this conversation with politicians already. Why, in 2016, are we still asking political leaders to take steps to protect basic fundamental rights like the right to peacefully assemble?

The experience of activists in Gdansk is not an isolated incident. The following day, in Chisinau, Moldova, the Fara Frica solidarity march was interrupted by a counter-protest and an emergency evacuation of all participants. My colleague who was in attendance told me: “I never saw such fear in the eyes of police men. They protected us well. But the authorities failed to let us finish the march.”

Still, the march’s duration was longer than ever before and it ended up being Moldova’s most well-attended Pride march. This is testament to the amazing work being carried out by committed LGBTI activists in Moldova, dedication that is replicated all over our continent.

2016 season

The 2016 European Pride season is just warming up. ILGA-Europe has already been working with activists in Istanbul, Kiev and Budapest as well as a few Italian cities to discuss concerns around their marches. In some cases, we even had to provide security training.

Recently, we saw successful Pride marches in Albania, Kosovo and northern Cyprus. We have to give praise to the local politicians who marched with activists; they demonstrated what is possible when there is political will. But, as if from a Cher Pride classic, some politicians seem to wonder: “If I could turn back time…”.

Human rights gains made in the past do not offer guarantees for the future. With populist politicians winning votes across the continent, LGBTI activists need to be more vigilant than ever.

In many places, political support is fleeting. There is a real danger that politicians and institutions are shifting their focus to other issues and are staying away from Prides and other pro-equality events. It feels frustrating. It feels repetitive. Above all, it feels outdated.

In 2016, Europe’s political leaders should be attuned to the fact that peaceful assembly must be protected.

Come to Pride

This is why ILGA-Europe would like to send a reminder to Europe’s political representatives. Their participation in Pride is a symbol of their solidarity, their commitment to protecting fundamental rights, upholding the rule of law and a defence of democracy. We need politicians to march with us. We need institutions to speak out.

The right to freedom of assembly is a vital element of functioning democracies. Freedom of expression is an important element of pluralist societies. For this reason, many politicians have labelled Pride marches as a litmus test for a healthy democracy.

For governments and NGOs in some countries, safe and successful Prides are a part of the general public’s consciousness. They are part of a city’s appeal and a key date in everyone’s social calendar.

In other parts of Europe, policing of the event is not always guaranteed. Some local administrations are openly opposed to public LGBTI events and put logistical hurdles in the way of LGBTI community organisers. These concerns need to be addressed.

ILGA-Europe are hopeful that the 2016 Pride season will be respected in a growing number of countries, both inside and outside the EU’s borders. That is why we are speaking out now, at the beginning of the summer.

The experiences of our friends in Poland, Moldova, Turkey and Italy should remind Europe’s institutions and national governments of their responsibility to uphold and respect fundamental human rights.

If we have to go back to basics to make sure that the next generation of LGBTI activists can enjoy safe Pride events, so be it. But turning back time is not an option.

Bjoern van Roozendaal is programmes director with ILGA-Europe - the European Region of the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association

Focus

Italy changes EU gay rights map

Decision to allow same-sex unions deleted last zone of anti-gay intolerance in western Europe. Lack of adoption rights left "bitter taste".

Integration of Syrian refugees in Europe needs scrutiny

Most refugee-related services are outsourced to the private sector and NGOs, which are not adequately monitored and evaluated. When governments and EU institutions provide funding for refugee projects, they should scrutinise the NGOs and private players they work with.

Europe's last wild rivers under threat at Balkans summit

The EU is prioritising motorways and gas pipelines across the potential accession Western Balkan countries, plus hydropower energy projects which threaten one of the world's freshwater biodiversity hotspots.

More commitment to renewables from Council, please

More and more consumers are likely to invest in solar panels in the future as it becomes simpler to produce one's own electricity, writes Monique Goyens, director general of BEUC, the European Consumer Organisation.

News in Brief

  1. Trump warns Nato allies' low budgets will be 'dealt with'
  2. Only Estonia, Greece and UK hit Nato spending target
  3. EU to start process to counter US Iran sanctions
  4. Macedonia PM sees 'possible solutions' in Greek name row
  5. EU takes six countries to court over air pollution
  6. New Catalan leader sworn in without reference to Spain
  7. Merkel and Putin revive dialogue in troubled times
  8. European companies putting Iran business on hold

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersOECD Report: Gender Equality Boosts GDP Growth in Nordic Region
  2. Centre Maurits Coppieters“Peace and reconciliation is a process that takes decades” Dr. Anthony Soares on #Brexit and Northern Ireland
  3. Mission of China to the EUMEPs Positive on China’s New Measures of Opening Up
  4. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOld White Men are Destroying Macedonia by Romanticizing Greece
  5. Counter BalanceControversial EIB-Backed Project Under Fire at European Parliament
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersIncome Inequality Increasing in Nordic Countries
  7. European Jewish CongressEU Leaders to Cease Contact with Mahmoud Abbas Until He Apologizes for Antisemitic Comments
  8. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual Report celebrates organization’s tenth anniversary
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Cooperation Needed on Green Exports and Funding
  10. Mission of China to the EUPremier Li Confirms China Will Continue to Open Up
  11. European Jewish CongressCalls on Brussels University to Revoke Decision to Honour Ken Loach
  12. Sustainable Energy Week 2018"Lead the Clean Energy Transition"- Register and Join Us in Brussels from 5 to 7 May

Latest News

  1. Athens mayor wants direct access to EU migration fund
  2. Nordics could be first carbon-negative region in world
  3. Zuckerberg and Trump top the EU's agenda This WEEK
  4. Integration of Syrian refugees in Europe needs scrutiny
  5. Bulgarian PM: No asylum reform without stronger border
  6. Eight countries to miss EU data protection deadline
  7. Italian populists to defy EU debt rules
  8. Commission 'playing tricks' with EU budget figures

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EU Green Week 2018Green Cities for a Greener Future. Join the Debate in Brussels from 22 to 24 May
  2. Nordic Council of Ministers12 Recommendations for Nordic Leadership on Climate and Environment
  3. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOxford Professor Calls for an End to the Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  4. ACCAPeople Who Speak-Up Should Feel Safe to Do So
  5. Mission of China to the EUProgress on China-EU Cooperation
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersWorld's Energy Ministers to Meet in Oresund in May to Discuss Green Energy
  7. ILGA EuropeParabéns! Portugal Votes to Respect the Rights of Trans and Intersex People
  8. Mission of China to the EUJobs, Energy, Steel: Government Work Report Sets China's Targets
  9. European Jewish CongressKantor Center Annual Report on Antisemitism Worldwide - The Year the Mask Came Off
  10. UNICEFCalls for the Protection of Children in the Gaza Strip
  11. Mission of China to the EUForeign Minister Wang Yi Highlights Importance of China-EU Relations
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersImmigration and Integration in the Nordic Region - Getting the Facts Straight