Surprise and Indignation in Italian Political and Diplomatic Circles
for the Croatian President’s Declaration
Mesic’s comments on Napolitano’s speech:
«Shades of open racism, revisionism and revanchism»
D’Alema convenes the Croatian ambassador in Rome:
the Italian mission in Zagreb is annulled
«The Croatian president’s words and unjustifiable: they cause astonishment and pain». This was Foreign Minister Massimo D’Alema’s first reaction to the surprising declarations of Croatian president Stjepan Mesic on the speech given by Napolitano on February 19th, Day of Remembrance of the Istrian Exodus and foibe victims. In a statement issued in the days following Italy-wide commemorations, Mesic expressed, with unusual and surprising tones for a Head of State, «disagreeable surprise» for «the content and the tone» of the «latest declarations of the leadership of the Italian government that refer to the past», but that also affect «current relations between Italy and Croatia»Mesic’s harsh tones continued: «These declarations, in which it is impossible not to observe shades of open racism, of historical revisionism and political revanchism, cannot possibly coexist with Italy’s declared desire to increase bilateral relationships among our two countries». The statement continued: «The Italian president considers disconcerting and potentially very dangerous for any doubt to be cast upon the 1947 Peace Treaty». Mesic was referring to Napolitano’s speech at the Quirinale during the ceremony in which he conferred diplomas and medals to the relatives of foibe victims: in the course of this speech., he connected those events with the «movement of hatred and bloodthirsty fury» and with the «slavic plans for annexation» that prevailed in the 1947 Peace Treaty, and which assumed the sinister outlines of ethnic cleansing».
It is unacceptable, under any circumstance, for the Croatian Republic to question any matters regarding the Treaty of Osimo, signed byYugoslavia and Italy and that were assumed by Croatia as heir of the ex Federation.
The Italian press defined the Croatian president’s words as a harsh and incomprehensible attack on the Italian Head of State. According to D’Alema, the words of Napolitano «go hand in hand with the sense of recognition of historical truth that is the basis for the process of future advancement and reconciliation. Precisely for this reason», continued D’Alema, «Mesic’s reaction is all the more astonishing: it doesn’t take into account the true meaning of Napolitano’s words at all». The Foreign Minister recalled that «democratic Italy has often recognized the grave deeds carried out under fascism in the Balkans; our great nation has certainly never failed to denounce fascist horrors in the Balkans and to condemn the fascist occupation of ex-Yugoslavia». D’Alema observed on this point that «Mesic should know that he is addressing the president of an Italy that is democratic and antifascist, which has come to terms with its fascist past and, at the same time, feels the need to make clear the historic truth regarding the innocent Italian victims who lost their lives in the tragic closing days of the war and in the immediate postwar period: the recognition of this historic truth is a fundamental condition for the complete reconciliation that we desire, much as we desire to carry out joint symbolic commemorations». D’Alema continued, «the words of Napolitano do not lend themselves to misunderstandings from this point of view». And for clarifications, D’Alema summoned the ambassador of Croatia in Italy, Tomislav Vidosevic. Vidosevic, reported State Department sources, «represented Zagreb’s point of view, and assured that he will communicate D’Alema’s concerns punctually to his superiors».
President Napolitano agrees fully with the evaluations expressed by Minister D’Alema.
The reactions in Italian political circles.
Both majority and opposition condemn Mesic’s declaration
«We need to read every page of history, even the pages that are most painful for us: that is the only way that we can build the future of our country and of Europe», commented Gavino Angius of the Democratic Left party and vice-president of the Senate, who was present at the ceremony at the Quirinale.
The leader of Alleanza Nazionale (“National Alliance”, a major rightist party) Gianfranco Fini expressed solidarity with Napolitano: «Mesic has not only offended President Napolitano, to whom we give our full solidarity, but he has also offended historical truth. His words are grave and unacceptable; they risk having Croatia being estranged from the EU, and they echo only a ultranationalist logic and unworthy revanchism which are truly out of place for the Head of State of a democratic country and friend of Italy».
«Mesic’s words are worrisome and alarming», echoed Maurizio Gasparri (AN), and Mario Borghezio, the Northern League’s group leader at the European Parliament gave Napolitano «full solidarity».
Pierferdinando Casini also intervened in the President’s defense. Casini was at the the Basovizza foiba site recently to pay homage to the 350 thousand exiles, recognizing that "for reasons of State, the memory of this tragedy was sacrificed». Casini judged it positive that today these words of reparation "have been pronounced by a leftist president».
Foibe Victims honored with a minute of silence in the Senate
«The foibe are a tragedy too long forgotten» and this was «a grave error» President Napolitano has done well to pronounce such «clear and well-measured words».
These the words of Senate President Franco Marini, spoken on February 13th, when he called the Senate chamber at Palazzo Madama to observe a minute of silence in memory of that tragedy. «As we open this session, the first since this year’s Day Of Remembrance, dedicated to the martyrs of the foibe and the Exodus of Istrians, Fiumani and Dalmatians from their native region, I believe it dutiful and right for me to express the profound sentiment of the Senate regarding the memory of all the innocent victims of that time, and our closeness to the family members of those who were barbarously murdered, and of those people forced to leave their hometowns and native regions. The president of the Senate then underlined that «the institution of the Day of Remembrance, thanks to a law approved by Parliament in 2004, offers us all the opportunity to consolidate a collective memory of a terrible page that marked the history of the past century. It is a tragedy that was too-long forgotten, and it is well to recognize that a grave error was committed, an injustice toward those Italian women and men who fell victim to an ideological and ethnic hatred which cost thousands of deaths, and exodus for hundreds of thousands.
«Renewing the memory of those dramatic events must serve to strengthen us in our conviction that there cannot be a common future among peoples if it is not based on mutual recognition and friendship, the overcoming of any political, cultural, or ethnic barrier, and the full affirmation of liberty and democracy».
Vast echo in the Italian press
Mesic’s declarations had a vast echo in the whole spectrum of the Italian press. For several days the front pages and main sections, editorial and opinion pages of the major Italian dailies and magazines were abuzz with analysis and commentary regarding the Croatian Head of State’s comment, and ample space was devoted to the matter on the national broadcasting networks. In the major newspaper "Corriere della Sera", Claudio Magris wrote in his February 11th article, titled Generalized Silence «On the foibe, so much of the left – communist and non – has been kept silent. It has ignored them, and has contributed to allowing them to be ignored, without listening to the voices – humanly strong, but politically slight – of that democratic left, patriotic and therefore anti-nationalist, that gave testimony to it. There are many explanations for this insulting silence and forgetfulness, but none can justify it, just as no violence perpetrated on the innocent can justify violent retaliation on other innocents».
This was only one, albeit highly authoritative, comment from among the dozens that were published in the past few weeks. We will be providing a more detailed review in the April issue of “Difesa Adriatica”.
(traduzioni di Lorie Ballarin)