By PREDRAG MILIC
PODGORICA, Montenegro – Organizers canceled Montenegro’s first ever gay pride event this week, claiming the government would not protect its participants.
Montenegrin gay groups said support for the event – scheduled for May 31 in the capital Podgorica – had not been backed by action.
Zdravko Cimbaljevic from LGBT Forum Progress group accused the authorities of a “lack of seriousness and professionalism.”
“They would state their support, but when concrete actions are needed, we have a problem,” Cimbaljevic said.
In a statement Tuesday, the government – which had offered public backing and protection for participants – urged the organizers to reconsider their decision, reiterating its “unconditional support” for the gathering. “There is no reason for the cancellation,” it said.
The event was widely seen as a test of the country’s commitment to human rights as it seeks EU membership. Opponents in the highly conservative Balkan country had declared the event a “shame” for the nation and threatened to disrupt it.
Gay activists have faced threats in Montenegro, whose population of around 600,000 largely take pride in patriarchal traditions and family values. The situation is similar in other Balkan nations, which remain conservative even as they seek to join the EU.
Last October, a gay pride event in neighboring Serbia resulted in daylong clashes between the police and extremists attacking the march. Dozens of people were injured and windows in central Belgrade were smashed.
On Tuesday, Commissioner for Equality Nevena Petrusic said in a statement that gays in Serbia still face threats, harassment and violence. Petrusic added that both the citizens and the state institutions must make an effort to overcome prejudice.