Serbian Government condemned by EU officials for cancelling pride march for third year running

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Officials from the European Union have criticised the Serbian Government’s decision to ban a gay pride event for a third year because of threats of violence from right-wing extremists.

Gay rights activists in Serbia earlier this week said that they expected to hold their first Pride march in three years on today, despite the threats.

Speaking at a news conference, organiser Goran Miletic said: “As far as we’re concerned, it is certain [to go ahead].”

EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fule, said Saturday’s decision by the Serbian Government as a “missed opportunity to show respect for fundamental rights”, as Serbia plans to being talks to join the EU, reports the Associated Press.

The EU envoy for Serbia, Jelko Kacin, said it was the “wrong decision at a wrong time”.

In 2010, a Pride march was held in Belgrade for the first time since 2001, attracting around 600 LGBT supporters. However, the event was marred by violence after more than 20,000 people held a counter-protest which left 150 people – mostly police officers – injured.

Authorities had expressed concerns that today’s planned event could have led to a repeat of 2010’s violence.

Deputy Prime Minister in Serbia, Aleksandar Vucic said the ban was “in the interest of the citizens”. He insisted that “hooligans have not defeated the state.”

Pride marches in Serbia have been banned for the last two year over concerns the violence that accompanied the 2010 event could be repeated.

Serbian Prime Minister Ivica Dacic, who is also the police chief, said at the time: “We believe that at this moment Serbia does not need clashes and victims, and that’s why we banned the gatherings”.

Mr Dadic said on Wednesday that this year’s march would go ahead unless the security assessment suggested there would be a grave threat to public safety.

Asked if he would attend, Dacic replied: “No. Do I have to become gay?”

In June, it was reported that the first LGBT community centre to open in Belgrade had become the target of surveillance from nationalist groups, who said they wanted to protect the neighbourhood from “prostitution.”