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PODGORICA, Montenegro (AP) — Protected by hundreds of riot police, about 200 gay activists marched peacefully on Sunday in Montenegro, a staunchly conservative Balkan country seeking EU membership.

Carrying banners reading "Let's Love Each Other" or "This is Just Beginning," gay activists gathered in the capital, Podgorica, as police deployed heavily, practically blocking the city center.

No incidents were reported, unlike in previous years when police fought right-wing extremists and gay activists had to be evacuated. Police detained several people they suspected of potential trouble-making.

"I am the happiest man in the world today!" said organizer Daniel Kalezic. "This year we had better cooperation with the authorities."

Montenegro, like much of the Balkans, has a strong macho male culture with little tolerance for gays, who often face harassment or attacks from right-wing or hooligan groups.

But Balkan countries must protect human rights to advance in EU membership bids. Mitja Drobnic, the head of the EU mission in Montenegro, praised the government for securing the event.

A massive police presence also marked a pride event in neighboring Serbia in September.