EU urges Croatia to respect rights at gay march
(ZAGREB) - The European Union called on Croatia Wednesday to ensure respect for human rights at a weekend Gay Pride march after last year's event ended in violence that injured a dozen people.
The EU delegation to Croatia said it was "closely monitoring" preparations for Saturday's event in Split and emphasized the "importance of respect for human rights", calling it one of the cornerstones of European integration.
The country is set to join the European Union in July 2013.
"We are expecting a strong engagement of the Croatian government regarding Gay Pride with the presence of several ministers on the spot", a Zagreb-based Western diplomat who did not want to be named told AFP.
President Ivo Josipovic and the centre-left government of Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic have backed the event, and the foreign and interior ministers have said they would be present at the march in Croatia's second city.
When the Adriatic town of Split, a stronghold of conservative nationalists, held its first ever gay rights march last year, a dozen people were wounded as some 10,000 opponents of the march hurled stones, bottles and bricks at about 200 participants.
Croatia's society is still largely conservative, and the Roman Catholic Church has publicly branded homosexuality a "handicap" and a "perversion."
The former Yugoslav republic held its first Gay Pride parade in Zagreb in 2002 and more than a dozen participants were beaten up afterward.
Since then, parades have been held in the capital annually without major incidents, but always under heavy security.
This year's Gay Pride event in Zagreb is planned for June 16.