Interview with Andreas Wolter, vice-mayor of the city of Köln, speaker of the Cluj Pride 2018

Posted on June 27, 2018 by

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In 2018, the second Cluj Pride was once again a successful cultural event. Around 2700 participants marched as a DSC_0315
part of a very happy and colorful crowd, celebrating diversity, equal rights and love. Following the motto of this year (#SuntemAICI / #WeareHERE), the Pride was honored by the presence of a delegation from the twin city of Cluj, Cologne, Köln. Similarly to Cluj, Köln has a rich Roman and Medieval past and a vibrant, youthful present. The only difference is that while in Köln the Pride is organized in the city center with the participation of hundreds of thousands of people and numerous local politicians, in Cluj this event was still marginalized by the river, far from the city center. Only two local politicians honored the second Pride with their presence: Eckstein-Kovács Péter and Adrian Dohotaru – both of them independent from political parties.

Andreas Wolter, vice-mayor of the city of Köln was one of the key-speakers of the second Cluj Pride. As a politician and as an openly gay person, he is one of the most well-known supporters of LGBTQ rights in Germany. We took this interview with him after the press conference, in Cluj. During the discussion, Andreas Wolter told us, that the mayor of Köln, Henriette Reker fully supported the visit of the German delegation to the Cluj Pride, because she finds it very important to support all kind of minorities and vulnerable groups in Köln and also in their partner-cities in Poland, Israel, Turkey, Tunisia and Romania too.

by Szabó Csaba

T.SZ.CS: You have already mentioned, during the press conference, that the beginnings were not so easy in Köln either. As far as I know, you were already active as a politician in the 1980’s: how was the situation back then and what was the development from the first Pride in 1991 to the contemporary big Pride Parades of Köln?

A.W.: In the 80’s there were some small gatherings in hidden corners of the city, but the first real Pride was organized in 19DSC0157791. The 80’s were a tensioned period in many ways: a divided country, the HIV epidemics that has strongly marked the LGBT community in Köln. Especially gay men began to fight for equal rights, which led to the Pride movement in the 90’s.

T.SZ.CS: Can we compare the situation of Köln from early 90’s to Cluj in terms of accepting Pride as a cultural event of a modern city?

A.W.: I don’t think that Cluj is 20-30 years behind Germany, the Netherlands or Belgium. We had a very efficient collaboration with Ljubljana in Slovenia, also a post-communist country which is also a member of the rainbow-cities network. Similarly, when we`ve visited Katowice, Poland for the first time, ten years ago, the local authorities said: we don’t have LGBTQ community and such problems in our city. I told them that this was not true, because I knew many people from there – young and educated people – who wanted to live and create their lives. Give the opportunity to those people to have the chance to develop their own creativity, their own endeavor and business in their own homeland. Try to offer the chance to all the young people to find a home in your city, and if not, then they are welcomed in Köln. This would have been my message also for the major of Cluj, if I had the chance to meet him: this is a basic human right to express. The LGBTQ community is not a radical group or some bad power. They want to create the city.

T.SZ.CS: How are the local authorities of Köln helping the LGBTQ community? What kind of programs do you organize?

A.W.: We have a long-term project for supporting the LGBTQ community. It is not a short or a temporary action DSC01597plan, but a long-term development and supporting project. First of all, we have a counseling center. It is not organized by the city of Köln, but it is run by an NGO, however the city of Köln financially supports this center. In this counseling center we offer special care for elderly people and gay refugees, too. Besides, we have an LGBTQ Youth Center. There is also a Turkish gay group, a Jewish Lesbian group and one of the biggest LGBTQ sports associations, where I also am a member. We have organized the Gay Games in 2010. There is even a rainbow parents and baby sports group within the association. We organize also counseling for rainbow parents, which is actually a very current issue in Germany after the acceptance of gay marriages. We support rainbow families and their children.

Susanne Bonnemann, member of the city administration and the Rainbow Families in Köln added: ”there are more and more rainbow families in Köln, München, Hamburg and Berlin too, approximately 10.000 people living already as gay couples with children. Adoptions were possible already from the early 2000’s, when gay couples could adopt children from previous heterosexual relationships, for example.” Andreas Wolter himself has now two children from his previous relationship. 40% of some surveys say that the young LGBTQ people are very open now for adoption and they see this already as a real possibility for their future family life.

DSC_0930T.SZ.CS: I was studying in the former East Germany and even there, gay Pride (or CSD) is just one of the many urban festivals where thousands of people are celebrating together. Do you see a difference between east and west in this sense?

A.W.: There might be indeed a difference between smaller towns and big cities. We know there are some parts in East Germany which face a big problem nowadays with extreme-right wing movements, but I’m sure that CSD and Pride in Dresden or Leipzig are just the same as in Köln. Maybe in some remote places, villages and small towns, the situation is much harder for the members of the LGBTQ community.

T.SZ.CS: How do you see the future collaboration with the local authorities from Cluj or what would be your message for the mayor of the city?

A.W.:  I can’t really provoke a collaboration with the city hall and the local authorities by myself. I think this is a DSC_0114slow process which begins here with the help of the NGOs like Les Sisterhood, Pride Romania and others. They are already discussions about the Pride with the local authorities and with the people of Cluj and that is already an important step. Ten years ago in Katowice the situation was similar. Now they have a strong LGBTQ association which organize numerous events there and we are always invited. Their association is participating to numerous urban events and festivals in strong collaboration with the local authorities. This is what we want to see in Cluj too. We invite NGOs from our twin-cities and partner cities in Köln to help them with advice and trainings and we see that they are doing a great job in their homeland. In Cluj at the moment there is no real communication. They have to start a much stronger collaboration and communication from both parts. If we can help in establishing this communication, we’ll do it with great pleasure, but we don’t want  to tackle the city of Cluj.

Susanne Bonnemann added: they want to create an exchange with LGBTQ youth from Köln and Cluj and such initiatives might help also the local authorities to communicate about this issue and apply for EU founding’s together (Erasmus plus or other programs). Susanne highlighted, that all the cities which support the LGBTQ movement and has a rich activity of NGO’s attracts also much more tourists and it represents an important financial factor too.


Cluj Pride took place on 23rd of June, in Cluj-Napoca, bringing together members of the LGBTQ community and allies, friends, families, activists for human rights, journalists, politicians, teachers etc. Being the second time when Cluj is holding a gay pride, the only march for the rights of the LGBTQ community from Transylvania is organized by the following associations: LGBT Cluj – PRIDE România (initiator), Go Free – The Association for the Support of Civil Society, Actedo and Les Sisterhood Cluj.

Photo: Go Free Association/The School of Community Journalism StReEt (Andra Camelia Cordoș, Anca Micodan, Alexandra Sofroni)



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