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news 19 Sep 11

Serbian Rightists Petition Against Gay Parade

Hardline nationalists are busy agitating against this year's planned Gay Pride march - but with tensions in Kosovo also claiming their attention, it may be a case of too little, too late.

Bojana Barlovac
Belgrade

In a bid to halt a planned Gay parade in Belgrade on October 2, far-right groups in Serbia have launched petitions urging the authorities to cancel it.

One group, Dveri Srpske, (Serbian doors) said it had collected several thousand signatures in electronic form on its website, urging the scrapping of the Gay Pride March.

As the big day looms, Dveri activists have rushed to collect more signatures for the petition on the streets of towns across Serbia.

But Lidija Glisic from Dveri could not reveal how many signatures have been collected.

Like many far-right groups, Dveri has been diverted from the row over Gay Pride by growing tension in Kosovo between Serbs and Albanians.

The row over the deployment of a handful of Kosovo customs officials and EU police on two disputed border crossings has overshadowed disputes over whether gays should march in the Serbian capital.

Many far-rightists are currently out of the city, manning Serbian barricades in the northern-Serb-run slice of Kosovo.

Most Serbs, nationalists especially, bitterly resent the independence of Kosovo and are determined to stop the tiny Serb-run northern segment from coming under the control of the Albanian-led government in Pristina.

“We hope the parade will not go ahead but now our [Dveri] members are on barricades, supporting Serbs there [northern Kosovo],” Glisic told Balkan Insight.

Dveri, which has said it will compete in next spring's election on a family values ticket, earlier announced it would organise a rival, pro-family march if the Pride march went ahead.

Branimir Nesic, of Dveri, earlier said that the Serbian government would bear responsibility if anti-gay violence occurred on the streets.

Last October's parade, the first since 2001, ended in mayhem as stone-throwing anti-gay youths clashed with police.

This year Brussels is closely monitoring the statements and actions of the Belgrade authorities regarding the rights of sexual minorities.

Members of the European Parliament’s group for LGBT rights have called on Serbia's President, Boris Tadic, and top state officials to ensure the safety of participants in the parade.

"Support for this year's parade and the safety of the gathering will send a clear message that Serbia is ready to guarantee the right of everyone to free assembly and expression and the right of all citizens to be protected from discrimination," 13 members of the European Parliament, including the EU Rapporteur for Serbia, Jelko Kacin, said in an open letter to Serbian officials.

Only one week after the parade, on October 10, the European Commission is expected to declare its opinion on Serbia's progress towards EU membership, noting whether it now meets all the criteria needed to obtain EU candidate status.

Officials of the centre-right government keenly hope Serbia will obtain candidate status by the end of the year - not least because the issue will loom large in next spring's general election.

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