EU Parliament Chief Apologizes After Ripping Open War Wounds
(Bloomberg) -- The head of the European Parliament apologized after touching off a dispute by referring to parts of Croatia and Slovenia as Italian on a day commemorating the slaughter of thousands of his countrymen following World War II.
Speaking on Sunday in honor of those Italians who died and hundreds of thousands more who fled from Adriatic Sea border regions to escape Yugoslav partisans during the foibe massacres of World War II, Antonio Tajani referred to "Italian Istria" and "Italian Dalmatia." The regions subsequently became part of Yugoslavia and, later, Croatia and Slovenia.
Croatian member of European Parliament Ivana Maletic denounced Tajani’s comments as "completely unacceptable" and said the spat may turn voters in the Balkan state away from polling booths in the elections for the chamber slated for May. She was joined by Slovenian Foreign Minister Miro Cerar, who tweeted: "any distortion of historical facts about the events in the border area between Slovenia and Italy is unacceptable."
Tajani apologized Monday, saying his reference to the regions "was in no way a territorial claim" but instead to honor those who were exiled and their descendants, many of whom were present at the ceremony in Basovizza, Italy.
"I’m sorry if the meaning of my words has been misinterpreted," Tajani said during a session of the assembly in Strasbourg, France. "It was not my intention to offend anyone. I just wanted to send a message of peace between the peoples, so that what happened then will never be repeated."
The wartime events remain a flashpoint topic between Italy, Slovenia and Croatia. In a Feb. 10 editorial in Il Giornale newspaper, Tajani called for the “reconciliation of the people” and said the three nations “are now friends and fundamental partners within the European Union.”
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