Serbia's leader to attend gay pride march for first time

Serbia's leader to attend gay pride march for first time

Serbia's leader to attend gay pride march for first time

"My message to the citizens of Serbia is that the government will respects the rights of all citizens, both the majority and minorities", Brnabic told reporters.

"We want to send a signal that diversity makes our society stronger, that together we can do more", she added.

Ana Brnabic, the first openly gay prime minister in the Balkan region and the first Serbian woman in the top job, has joined about 1,000 gay activists at Belgrade's gay-pride parade.

Although extremist groups gathered with protest banners no incidents were reported.

Brnabic, 41, made worldwide headlines in June when she was selected to be prime minister by her predecessor, Aleksandar Vucic, after he was elected president.

Ana Brnabic was elected earlier this year in what was seen as part of Serbia's efforts to embrace change and improve its image as it moves toward European Union membership.

In 2010, parade participants were protected by police, but throughout the city there were riots and severe clashes between police and right-wing hooligans who opposed the march.

"Today we walk together and together we will stress that problems still exist and that we want to work together to solve them", said activist Goran Miletic.

Belgrade's 2017 pride event is the fourth consecutive year the country have marched.

Serbia's embattled gays have faced widespread harassment and violence from extremists.

On Sunday, despite the hundreds of riot police in downtown Belgrade and the helicopters flying overhead, activists said the atmosphere was more relaxed than in previous years.

This was the first time that a Serbian PM joined the annual parade.

Several pride events were subsequently banned before the marches resumed in 2014.

Labor Minister Zoran Djordjevic, Minister of State Administration Branko Ruzic, and Belgrade Mayor Sinisa Mali are also participating in the September 17 parade - the final event of the Pride Week. A former ultranationalist who now says he is a pro-EU reformer, Vucic has declined invitations to attend the pride march.

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