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The EU and Human Rights Watch have panned the deputy defence minister for saying that activists planning Albania's first Gay Pride deserve a beating.
“The European Union strongly condemns any discriminatory rhetoric as well as any incitement to hatred or violence,” the EU delegation in Albania said in a statement on Tuesday.
“Public statements like Mr Spahiu's are in contradiction with the implementation of anti-discrimination policies under chapter 23 on judiciary and fundamental rights of the EU acquis communautaire,” the statement added.
Gay rights activists have announced that they will hold a rally in Tirana on May 17 to defend the rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities.
But the planned march, the country’s first Gay Pride parade, has already provoked the ire of conservatives and religious communities.
Ekrem Spahiu, who heads a small royalist party called Legality, called for the activists to be beaten.
“What remains to be done is to beat them up with a stick. If you don’t understand this, I can explain it: to beat them with a rubber stick,” Spahiu told the daily Gazeta Shqiptare.
Human Rights Watch on Monday called on the Albanian government to publicly reprimand Spahiu.
“I am shocked that a high ranking government official is calling for violence against peaceful LGBT demonstrators,” said Boris Dittrich, advocacy director in the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Rights Program at Human Rights Watch.
“Government officials should be supporting plans to hold a Gay Pride parade, not making threats against the participants.”
The Prime Minister, Sali Berisha, has since called the remarks "unacceptable".
In the Vellusha area of Prishtina, men in beards and women in full veil are a common sight, as hard-line Muslims stake a claim to part of the Kosovo capital.