LGBT March for Equality identified as one of the Challenges for the Upcoming EU Presidency
15min.ltreports that the LGBT March for Equality might become one of highlights in the beginning of the Lithuanian EU Presidency in the second half of 2013. The Baltic Pride 2013 March is scheduled in July, 2013, i.e. immediately after Lithuania takes over the EU Presidency.
According to Vladimir Simonko, the Board Chair of the Lithuanian Gay League (LGL), the decision about the timing for the Equality March was based on the best practice in the course of the Hungarian EU Presidency in 2011. “We participated in the Pride events in Budapest and we have witnessed with our own eyes that the public authorities were willing to cooperate with the organizers. Therefore we presume that the EU Presidency encourages public authorities to seek dialogue with civil society in order to promote European values,” – says Mr. Simonko. The notifications about peaceful assemblies have to be handed in to the special commission within the Vilnius City Municipality. According to one of the organizers of the Baltic Pride 2013, the notification to the public authorities will be handed in as soon as the issues regarding the desired route and the number of participants are decided upon. “We are intending to ask for a route in the downtown of Vilnius. There is still some time either for a dialogue or a non-dialogue. We hope that public authorities will act reasonably this time,” – says the LGL Board Chair. The first Baltic Pride in Vilnius in 2010 (the publication on the event can be accessed here) caused a great deal of controversy both nationally and internationally. The March took place by a river side and not in the downtown of Vilnius. The procession was cordoned and protected by app. 800 law-enforcement officers. The participants of the event were met with derogatory language, insulting posters, religious symbols and smoke bombs. Several counter protestors were arrested and two MPs, namely Mr. Petras Gražulis and Mr. Kazimieras Uoka, sought to break through the police cordon. The Prosecutor General sought to initiate criminal proceedings against the MPs, but the Parliament refused to strip their colleagues off the parliamentary immunity. Mr. Simonko believes that this year the Baltic Pride will have more participants than its previous edition. The organization of the Baltic Pride rotates among three Baltic countries annually – it took place in Riga in 2009 and in 2012 and in Tallinn in 2011. According to one of the experts on the EU affairs, the first Lithuanian EU presidency is like a white sheet; therefore the Lithuanian image in the course of the Presidency should not contradict the reality. In case Lithuania wants to position itself as a tolerant society, it should take care that no homophobic politician ruins this skin deep image.
The Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Vytautas Leškevičius, admits that the timing for the March for Equality in the beginning of the Lithuanian EU Presidency is not the most convenient time for the public authorities. However, he believes that the law-enforcement officers are capable of ensuring the security of any public events. Surprisingly, the Deputy Minister forecasts that the Vilnius City Municipality will not approve the notification of the Baltic Pride March, because a big event in relation to the EU Presidency might be scheduled during the dates proposed by the organizers. It has to be noted that the LGL has not announced the official dates of the Baltic Pride March yet.