Dozens of gay rights activists took to the streets of Belgrade to protest a ban by the Serbian government on a weekend gay pride march.
They waved rainbow flags, held banners reading “This is pride” and chanted “This is Serbia”. The crowd also gathered outside Prime Minister Ivica Dacic’s government office before walking to parliament, escorted by riot police.
The last gay pride march in 2010 sparked riots and arson by nationalists. Dacic pulled the plug citing public safety issues but denied he was capitulating to hooligans. The move comes ahead of expected talks in January over EU membership for Serbia but the West first wants signs of greater tolerance and diversity.
Miichael Davenport, the Head of EU delegation in Belgrade said:
“This is an opportunity for Serbia, it’s an opportunity to send – against the background of negotiations on the way forward – it’s an opportunity for a really strong message of commitment to those values and to really project that to Europe and the world.”
Homosexuality is widely condemned across the Balkans and regarded as a threat to family values. Across Belgrade, one right-wing party has put up posters saying “Family first.” Graffiti elsewhere says “Stop the parade”, a measure of the feeling throughout the country.
Serbia will have to overcome these attitudes to be considered seriously for EU accession.