Postcard from... Belgrade


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The Independent Online

Hundreds of gay rights activists in Serbia held their first Pride march in four years yesterday, walking through Belgrade streets emptied of traffic and pedestrians by a massive security operation.

Thousands of riot police with armoured vehicles, water cannon, horses and shields sealed off streets leading to the short route from the government headquarters to parliament to prevent a repeat of running battles between police and hardline nationalists that took place in 2010. Authorities then banned Pride, citing security concerns.

But as Serbia embarks on talks to join the European Union, the bloc has made clear it sees Pride as a litmus test of the country’s commitment to defend the human rights of all.

Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic, a former ultranationalist who has rebranded himself as a pro-Western reformer, told a news conference after the march: “We didn’t do this because of the EU, but out of respect for the constitution, the law and respect for all, regardless of how hard it might be or how far it might conflict with our own personal views.”

A number of incidents were reported but on a far smaller scale than in 2010, when shops were destroyed, buses set ablaze and dozens of police and rioters were injured. REUTERS