Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Flamethrowers at 30 Paces?

Diplomacy Italian-Croatian Style:

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.

....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.

....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.

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