Riga in Latvia has won a bid to host Europride 2015, with activists hoping the event will raise awareness of gay rights in the region.
The Baltic capital fought off stiff competition from cities including Barcelona, Milan and Manchester following a successful campaign by Latvian LGBT group Mozaika.
Latvian Europride is planning to emphasize EU affairs, human rights, health, support for LGBT activists, culture and sports, and entertainment. There will also be the pride march.
Previous pride festivals in Riga have been banned by authorities and campaigners hope the event in three years time will send a powerful political message.
Juris Lavrikovs, of LGBT campaign group ILGA-Europe, told Gay Star News they have ‘complete trust’ in Mozaika after they successfully organized Baltic Pride in the city in May and established good relations with the government and police.
‘Europride will be quite important in the region because of the closeness the country has to the former Soviet Union,’ Lavrikovs said.
‘It will be a great opportunity to send not only a political message but also to ensure more participation from countries which are normally not able to travel easily to other places where it is held.’
The 22nd annual Europride in Riga will coincide with Latvia’s hosting of the European Union Presidency.
Lavrikovs told GSN: ‘It’s a great opportunity to address and discuss the issues with Latvian politicians on a completely different level outside of the national discourse but using the European agenda as well.’
He added that Europride in Riga is a ‘sign of maturity’ for the gay rights movement in the region and sends a ‘strong signal’ to neighboring countries such as Russia where anti-gay ‘propaganda’ laws have been introduced to suppress LGBT freedom of expression.
The first Europride was organized in London in 1992 and in 2010, the event happened in Warsaw – the first time a former communist country has hosted the festival.