I have just returned from Madrid, where I was volunteering at the annual Pride event (MADO), which this year ran from 1-10 July 2022. Madrid delivers outstanding Pride celebrations year on year, and it is the city with hosted the 2017 World Pride. It was a real privilege for me to be able to walk in the first row of the main march on Saturday, which is estimated to have gathered between 600,000-700,000 supporters, holding up the opening banner, which had a simple yet such an important statement: “In the face of hate: visibility, pride and resilience.”
During Friday’s International Human Rights Summit, organised as part of the Madrid Pride, I was chairing a debate panel on LGBTQIA+ rights in Central and Eastern Europe, faced with the war in Ukraine. My speakers, representing institutional actors and activists from across Europe, including Kristine Garina (European Pride Organisers Association, Riga Pride & MOZAIKA, Latvia), Juan Fernando López Aguilar MEP (Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament), Vitalina Koval (Amnesty International Ukraine), Marko Mihailović (Belgrade 2022 EuroPride Coordinator), Magda Dropek (Foundation Równość.org.pl y Queerowy Maj, Poland) and Kasia Sumisławska (European External Action Service), courageously and strongly called out instances where LGBTQIA+ rights – human rights – are being violated and the community is being discriminated against, including in the EU and across the continent. Sadly, people’s rights to dignity, self-determination and equal treatment are a prime target, and are time and again challenged especially when the rule of law is being undermined by populist and nationalist politics, which go against the very fabric of what Europe has been built on: solidarity, democracy, and equality. Rights, solidarity and dignity are what all of us in the Liaison Group fight for on daily basis, working with allies in the EU institutions, to ensure that Europe is a place where every person can have a future where they can live in freedom to self-determination and achievement.
I was also proud, but above all, humbled, to be present at the MADO Awards 2022, which celebrate the contributions and achievements of those active and supporting LGBTQIA+ rights. My friends from Poland, Kuba Gawroń and Kamil Maczuga, part of the team which created the Atlas of Hate in Poland (an interactive map of local government resolutions, hatefully called “LGBT-free zones”), received the prestigious activist project award, for their volunteering and often personal retaliatory legal persecution by the discriminatory Polish local governments, in the fight for LGBTQIA+ community rights in the country. Another person recognised in the MADO Awards 2022 was the EU Commissioner for Equality, Helena Dalli, who leads the European Commission’s pursuits on ensuring equal access to rights and life of dignity for all people in the EU. It was also a real privilege to meet and spend time volunteering at the Pride with Jordi Lozano González (also known as Jordi Petit), who received a special MADO Awards 2022 recognition for his years of clandestine struggle and being one of the first LGBT activists in Spain.
And finally, the right to associate and fight for freedom and equality is something that goes beyond the borders of the EU. Here, we tend to live in a very privileged space, and it is our duty to also fight for solidarity with civil society organisations and people outside of the EU. I’d like to end this month’s editorial with a quote from Marko from Belgrade, whom I mentioned in the opening of this message: “EuroPride in Belgrade, 12-18 September 2022, is the most important EuroPride because it is the first in southeast Europe, first outside of EEA and the first in the Balkans. The situation for the LGBTI+ community in Serbia and the rest of non-EU Western Balkan countries is quite bad – for that reason, we are using EuroPride as a tool to raise awareness of the serious issues we are facing and the lack of concrete steps from local governments to improve the position of the community. This is also an opportunity for the EU countries and community from Europe to show solidarity and help us to be one step closer to the living standards the LGBTI+ community has in most of Europe.”
Wishing you all a very good summer break, in solidarity,