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Italy and Croatia reopen old war wounds

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    😮 An article from The Guardian ( Tuesday February 13, 2007 ) 😮

    A furious row was raging across the Adriatic today over the second world war after the presidents of Croatia and Italy traded accusations of racism and barbarism.
    Italian diplomats called off visits to Zagreb and summoned the Croatian ambassador in Rome for a stiff talking-to; and the Italian prime minister, Romano Prodi, attacked Croatia after its president, Stipe Mesic, accused his Italian counterpart of racism and trying to rewrite history.

    Croatia and Slovenia were stunned by a weekend speech by Italy’s president, Giorgio Napoletano, devoted to the suffering of Italians in former Yugoslavia towards the end of the second world war.
    Describing the pogroms of Italians by Yugoslav communist partisans as “the barbarism of the century”, “ethnic cleansing” and a campaign of annexation of Italian territory fuelled by “Slav bloodthirsty hatred and rage”, Mr Napoletano stirred a storm of controversy and appeared to raise questions about Croatia’s bid to join the European Union.
    Mr Prodi and his foreign minister, Massimo D’Alema waded into the row yesterday, with Italian officials implying that while Italy had faced up to its fascist past, Croatia had yet to do so.

    “We don’t need any lessons in fascism from Italy,” quipped a Croatian politician after Mr Mesic said the Italian statesman’s speech smacked of “open racism, historical revisionism, and political revanchism”.

    The dispute has to do with the pogroms and population shifts enforced at the end of the second world war all across central Europe, but it also touches on sensitive current property claims and compensation demands.

    Just as millions of Germans were kicked out of central and eastern Europe and many of them killed when the Third Reich collapsed, so, after the fall of Mussolini and the capitulation of Italy, were Italian fascist occupiers and indigenous Italian communities expelled from the eastern Adriatic – the areas of Dalmatia and Istria that belonged to Yugoslavia and now form parts of Croatia and Slovenia.

    It is estimated that 150,000 Italians were kicked out by vengeful communist partisans under Josip Broz Tito, and that 15,000 were killed. Many of the corpses were dumped in the thousands of caves that perforate the limestone karst of Dalmatia and Istria.

    Mussolini’s fascist movement had annexed the eastern Adriatic before the war and occupied it during the war. Mr Napoletano further outraged the Croats by conferring a medal on an Italian fascist governor of a stretch of Dalmatia who was executed in 1947 after being tried for war crimes by the Yugoslavs.

    Observers were surprised by the strength of the language used by both sides, since both presidents are former communists with roots in the wartime partisan movements who fought guerrilla wars was against the fascists.

    Similar rows are currently simmering between Germany and Poland since a German lobby has gone to the European court to reclaim property lost at the end of the war. But the German government opposes the German claims and distances itself from the German lobby. Observers noted that had a German president accused Poland of barbarism and bloodlust, as Mr Napoletano had accused the “Slavs”, the international impact would have been immense.

    The issue of Italian suffering at the end of the war in former Yugoslavia was brushed under the carpet for decades. But two years ago, the rightwing Berlusconi government in Rome established a day of remembrance for the victims, and last year a publicly funded Italian feature film on the events was screened to huge impact in Italy, Croatia, and Slovenia.

    In former Yugoslavia, the film was seen as a sentimental outrage that falsified history, demonised “Slavs”, and failed to provide any context for the revenge meted out against the Italians.

    Italian officials have made it clear that Croatia could run into problems with its EU bid unless it is more accommodating towards Italy. Zagreb fears it may face demands either to return or sell property in what are now much coveted holiday hotspots in Dalmatia and Istria.


    Look – article about the same tipic in today’s Times:

    Ethnic cleansing gibe causes rift over war

    The horrors of the Second World War returned to haunt Italy and Croatia yesterday, as the two nations traded insults in a worsening diplomatic row over the killing of thousands of Italians by Yugoslav Communist partisans.

    The row follows remarks by President Napolitano at a remembrance ceremony last weekend in which the Italian head of state ? a former communist ? referred to the killings in 1943-45 as ?ethnic cleansing?.

    President Mesic of Croatia responded by saying Mr Napolitano?s remarks smacked of ?open racism, historical revisionism and political revan-chism?. Yesterday Romano Prodi, the Italian Prime Minister, interrupted a trip to India to say he had contacted Zagreb ?to express our contempt for these absolutely unjustifiable words?. The killings took place as Yugoslav partisans drove out Italians from Istria and Dalmatia on the Adriatic coast.

    The occupations formed part of a policy by Benito Mussolini, under which thousands of Croats and Slovenes were deported to concentration camps.

    The revenge killing of Italians is known in Italy as the ?Foibe Murders?, from the term for the deep pits in which the partisans dumped victims. Italy wants Croatian EU membership talks to include compensation for Italian property losses in Istria and Dalmatia.



    I found this quote by President Mesic:

    Forensic Specialists Should Establish the Truth about Foibe

    President Stjepan Mesic has proposed the establishment of a joint forensic team that would establish the final number of Italian vistims of foibe in a bid for Zagreb and Rome to resolve this historical issue that is marring their relations.

    Mesic said that Croatia and Italy were enjoying good relations when asked about the statements he had made and exchanged with Italian president Giorgio Napolitano on the issue of Croatian and Italian WWII victims and post-war victims.

    Mesic said he did not want to negate crimes being committed by the Croats, but also said that Italian fascists had committed crimes against Croats prior to and During WWII.


    :(” title=”>:(” class=”bbcode_smiley” /> Italians have the nerve!
    :(” title=”>:(” class=”bbcode_smiley” /> They commited war crimes all across former Yugoslavia, how dare they accuse any Former Yugoslavian country of anything.
    :(” title=”>:(” class=”bbcode_smiley” /> They should reflect on their own stance and their own doings during WW2, afterall they where the agressors and conquerors.

    It’s getting worse..

    BBC News, Rome:   Italy-Croatia WWII massacre spat 

    Italy has cancelled an official visit to Croatia following an angry exchange over the massacre of thousands of Italians during World War II.

    In 1943-45, up to 10,000 were tortured or killed by Yugoslav communists who occupied the Istrian peninsula, now part of Croatia and Slovenia.

    On Saturday, Italian President Giorgio Napolitano, an ex-communist, described the murders as “ethnic cleansing”.

    Croatian leader Stipe Mesic said his speech had traces of “open racism”.





    BRUSSELS, Feb 14 (Hina) – The European Commission has assessed that in his response to Italian President Giorgio Napolitano’s speech on Italian victims in the wake of the Second World War, Croatian President Stjepan Mesic used “inappropriate words”, and the EC declined to comment on the Italian leader’s strong-worded speech.

    The words the Croatian President used seem inappropriate, a spokeswoman for the EC, Pia Ahrenkilde Hansen, said in Brussels on Wednesday.

    In response to journalists’ questions whether she holds that the words Napolitano used, such as “bloodthirsty fury” were also inappropriate, the spokeswoman said, “We have no comment”.

    The trading of barbs between Italy and Croatia was triggered off last Saturday by President Napolitano’s speech on a commemoration of Italians who were killed in karst pits (known as foibe) or who were driven from their homes in the Croatian and Slovene parts of the Adriatic coast in the aftermath of the Second World War.

    During the commemoration, the Italian head of state said that the murders of Italians were a result of the “Slavic plan for annexation” and also spoke about “bloodthirsty fury that assumed the sinister contours of ethnic cleansing”.

    Croatia’s Mesic hit back saying that it was “impossible to overlook elements of open racism, historical revisionism and political revanchism” in Napolitano’s speech.

    (Hina) : http://www.hina.hr


    :-*Italian media on Rome-Zagreb relations  :-*

    Reconciliation between Croatia and Italy has been the most frequently used term in the headlines of Italian papers that conveyed the joint Italian-Croatian statement concluding polemics following the reaction of Croatian President Stjepan Mesic on the speech of the Italian President Giorgo Napolitano on Remembrance Day dedicated to WW2 victims.
    The Italian dailies point out that the ?polemics over foibe? are over? (La Repubblica) and that Italy will continue supporting Croatia on its way to the European Union. All papers mention that preparations are in progress for a meeting of Napolitano and Mesic after Eastern holidays (La Repubblica).

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