Montenegro gay rights clash could slow bid to join European Union
Hundreds of anti-gay demonstrators in the former Yugoslav republic of Montenegro may have set back their country’s bid to join the European Union on Wednesday with their rock-throwing protest against a gay pride march.
At the first known pride event in the Balkan enclave, angry demonstrators outnumbered those marching for gay rights by at least 10 to 1, according to news reports of the clash in the Adriatic Sea resort of Budva.
Montenegro, one of the most conservative and macho bastions in the tradition-bound region, last year began negotiations with the 28-member EU for eventual membership. Whether and how soon it can join the continent’s political and economic club depends in part on its conforming to the bloc’s joint pledge of respect for human rights for all citizens.
The Associated Press reported from Budva that the mob protesting the gay pride march hurled rocks, bottles and insults at the activists and shouted “Kill the gays!” Some among those being attacked responded with “Kiss the gays,” the news agency said.
“Unfortunately, in 20 years of transition Montenegro has not matured enough to tolerate differences,” Aleksandar Zekovic, one of the organizers of the rally, told the AP.
Several people were injured in the clash between the anti-gay protesters and riot police, the AP quoted Interior Minister Rasko Konjevic as saying. About 20 people were detained.
A statement posted on the website of the U.S. Embassy in Podgorica, the Montenegrin capital, said the U.S. government “condemns the acts of violence and hateful language aimed at parade participants. We urge the government to take appropriate measures against those individuals responsible for such actions.”
An account of the Budva clash carried in the Irish Independent cited a recent survey by the Ipsos research group in which more than two-thirds of Montenegrins polled said they considered homosexuality an illness and 80% were opposed to publicly professing sexual orientation. It was only three years ago that a Montenegrin publicly came out as gay.
Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic, a key backer of the bid to join the EU, told Parliament on Wednesday that his government “supports protection of human rights for all people without difference.”
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