Liberal MEPs vow to keep close eye on Lithuanian LGBT pride
Liberal members of the European Parliament said the Lithuanian government assured them that the LGBT pride march planned for this July will be properly protected. However, they have pledges to keep a close eye on the situation.
Hans van Baalen, a member of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE), told BNS during his visit in Vilnius that Lithuanian interior and foreign ministers told the delegation on Tuesday that the freedom of assembly would be ensured.
"Demonstrators have to be protected. If gay people want to demonstrate, they should be allowed to demonstrate. And the police should protect them. That is part of democracy. I’m convinced that gays will be able to demonstrate and will be protected by the police, and we will be sharp on this, because it is about human rights," the MEP told BNS.
"But both – the minister of interior and the foreign minister – said that it will be the freedom of protests and demonstrations according to permits, of course that is also in my country, and the police will protect those who demonstrate. Well, this was a firm commitment made just a few minutes ago and we trust your government, but we will also watch how things will go. There is progress, there should be more progress, but the commitment of your government is quite strong,” he said.
Lithuania's Foreign Minister Linas Linkevičius said after meeting with ALDI that the country made progress in ensuring LGBT rights, stressing the need to be patient.
"Everything that has to do with human rights, self-expression, and freedom of expressing one's views, non-discrimination, I want to emphasize this is all very important, especially for the Liberal group. I'm saying that we see progress on these matters. (…) More tolerance, less bias. But I am also emphasizing there has to be be a process. (...) In some countries it took 20 years, in other countries it took 30. The time is coming – we should not rush the events, we simply have to be patient and, most importantly, keep the positive dynamic of progress. (…) This is I think the impression our guests took home," Linkevičius told BNS.
After the meeting with ALDE, Interior Minister Dailis Alfonsas Barakauskas stressed the need of ensuring safety in such public events.
"I said it was our goal to provide safety for all, regardless of the political views, sexual preferences, or religious views. This refers to all events," he told BNS.
Judicial proceedings are currently in progress in Lithuania over the venue of the LGBT pride march planned to take place in Vilnius this summer.
The Lithuanian Gay League asked for a sanction to hold the event along the city's central Gedimino Avenue, but Vilnius administration suggested they march along a more remote Upės Street. The first gay pride in 2010 also took place on Upės Street. The location was cordoned off and protected as around a thousand people gathered to protest against the event.