ZAGREB, February 13, 2019 – Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović on Tuesday wrote to her Italian counterpart Sergio Mattarella, dismissing as inappropriate and unacceptable European Parliament President Antonio Tajani’s statement about “Italian Istria” and “Italian Dalmatia”, and in a separate letter to Tajani she requested an “unambiguos apology”.
Grabar-Kitarović on Monday commented on Tajani’s statement, made at the Basovizza pit near Trieste this past Sunday, saying that the European Union was not founded on principles of revisionism and irredentism.
Addressing an event commemorating victims of the foibe, karst pits in Istria, Croatia, and part of northern Italy, into which the bodies of Italians, killed by Yugoslav Partisans in the aftermath of WWII, were dumped, Tajani said “Long live Trieste, long live Italian Istria, long live Italian Dalmatia.”
“I reject in the strongest terms and condemn attempts to change history and lay claims on Croatian territory,” Grabar-Kitarović said in a press release on Monday, adding that she would notify Italian and EU institutions about this issue.
“I am deeply appalled and disappointed (…) as is the entire Croatian public, at the statement about the so-called ‘Italian Istria’ and ‘Italian Dalmatia’ the European Parliament President made at the commemoration for the foibe victims in Basovizza,” the president wrote in the letter to Mattarella.
The statement is contrary not only to the spirit of good neighbourly relations between the two countries and international agreements, but unfortunately revives the spirit of expansionist policies that were the root of many evils in the 20th century, “which, to my knowledge, you, too, have condemned,” Grabar-Kitarović says in the letter to Mattarella.
Croatia and Italy are two friendly neighbouring countries and allies sharing common EU values which Croatia wants to promote to the benefit of both nations and the entire EU, she says.
In her letter to Tajani, Grabar-Kitarović said that his words had personally insulted her because she came from a region which in the 1920s and 1930s and in World War II was affected by Italian fascist occupation and where traces of fascist crimes were still visible everywhere.
Any totalitarianism should be condemned and every victim of “fascist, Nazi and communist crimes” should be honoured, she said, expressing regret about all those who had to leave Croatia during and after WWII due to opposition to the communist regime.
That fate befell also many Croats, as well as members of other peoples, including Italians, she said, adding that with his statement, Tajani disregarded the historical context and insulted all Croatian citizens, notably those whose family members were killed during the fascist occupation of parts of Croatia.
Grabar-Kitarović added that Tajani’s statement had also caused unease among members of the Italian ethnic minority in Croatia which she described as “a constructive stakeholder” in the Croatian society.
The Croatian and Slovenian members of the European People’s Party (EPP) group in the European Parliament wrote to Parliament President Antonio Tajani on Tuesday asking him to apologise and retract his statement about “Italian Istria and Italian Dalmatia” because it can be understood as a territorial claim and revisionism.
“Your statement from Basovizza, which we condemn, has unfortunately opened long healed wounds. Your statement can be understood as territorial pretensions as well as revisionism and unfortunately leaves no room for a different interpretation. We take note that you felt sorry but we expect your clear apology and withdrawal of your statement,” the Croatian and Slovenian MEPs said in their letter.
Tajani addressed a memorial ceremony for Italian victims of the Second World War in Basovizza, near Trieste on Sunday, concluding his speech by saying: “Long live Trieste, long live Italian Istria, long live Italian Dalmatia.”
“Your statement has deeply offended the citizens of Croatia and Slovenia and it goes against the spirit of the duties you perform in your function as President of the European Parliament,” the letter said.
The MEPs said that the victory over Fascism “is a civilizational fact, as is commemorating all the innocent victims,” regardless of whether they were the victims of Communist or Fascist regimes.
“We believe that it is important from your side to remove any doubt as to the respect for the territorial integrity of Croatia and Slovenia. We therefore invite you, in the name of historical truth, to join us in marking the sites of crimes of all totalitarian regimes in Croatia and Slovenia as a warning that something like that should never happen again. Croatia and Slovenia are independent and sovereign states, while the Slovenian and Croatian regions in Istria and the Croatian regions in Dalmatia are regions with a long history,” the letter said.
The MEPs said they were “committed to the continuation of friendly and good neighbourly relations between Slovenia, Croatia and Italy.”
The letter was signed by the Croatian MEPs Dubravka Šuica, Ivana Maletić, Željana Zovko, Ivica Tolić and Marijana Petir, and the Slovenian MEPs Milan Zver, Franc Bogovič, Alojz Peterle, Romana Tomc and Patricija Šulin.
More news about the relations between Croatia and Italy can be found in the Politics sections.