No price is too high for pride in one’s country

Belgrade Pride 2014 Police balloonAs rumours and half-truths spread about the claimed cost of policing the Belgrade Pride parade, it would seem  inevitable – and, no doubt, will be  embraced in some quarters – for people to be up in arms about the amount of money allegedly spent to protect the people and their city.

While no official figures have been released, some media have reported unqualified estimates of €1 million to Belgrade’s coffers.

Pride organisers have laughed off this claim as ludicrous, believing that this figure is being bandied around for political purposes, to rile up those opposed to the parade and to stoke negative feeling towards the LGBT community.

Pride organisers say that this estimated figure includes a staggeringly exaggerated €600k for loss of trade to restaurants, bars and shops.

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Police strikes and religious rhetoric cannot crush Serbian Pride

Pride Parade BelgradeWith the democratic rights of Serbia’s LGBT community effectively held to ransom by Belgrade’s police force, the fate of the controversial Pride Parade hangs in the balance once more.

The Serbian state, Orthodox Church and extremists have successfully crushed the Pride Parade in recent years.

The authorities could have been handed the justification to pull the plug on Sunday’s parade, too, thanks to opportunely-timed strike action being threatened by Belgrade police unions.

While police claim they will step in to protect the city if called upon, they have presented a perfect excuse for authorities that have previously used security issues to ban the gathering. Whether they choose to use their power to block the parade remains to be seen.

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Dedicated volunteers ensure Serbian flood relief gets through

photo 1 When I volunteered to help with flood relief efforts at the Serbian Embassy in London, it was because the harrowing news footage and distressing stories relayed by friends who have been directly affected by the natural disaster in Serbia and Bosnia had moved me to act.

Good friends in the submerged town of Obrenovac have been made homeless and lost all their personal effects overnight, while in Bosnia, others I know have been evacuated to safety or are still holed up in their homes in Doboj.

In these times of 24-hour news coverage we can be numb to the roll call of tragedies and disasters around the world.

All too often these events can seem in such different worlds, that they are removed from our own sphere of reality.

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The Balkans respond with solidarity in trying times

Balkan floodsThere are moments in history when our reactions and behaviour can leave an impact that goes on to define us as a people or nation.

Such determining behaviour can embed so deeply in our collective mind that it corrals opinion about us and shapes our lasting impressions.

In that way, caricatures, stereotypes and misconceptions can be created – or they can be put straight for evermore.

The overwhelming floods in the Balkans will impact on the lives of so many people in so many ways. Thousands are already homeless, having lost everything to the dirty stinking waters, while the growing death toll ticks up to who knows where.

The scale of this natural disaster is unseen in Europe in recent decades, with the flooding in Serbia the worst in more than a century.

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