Parts of the speech delivered by the President of the European Parliament Antonio Tajani at the commemoration on the occasion of “Giorno del ricorda”, held on February 10, 2019 in Basovizza / Bazovica represent inappropriate messages in the public space. The President of the European Parliament should be aware of the role entrusted to him.
Tajani’s statement reminds on the Cold War rhetoric of the Italian right about “Italian victims” and “communist danger”, which is still occasionally used today, 74 years after the end of the Second World War.
Glorification of “Italian Istria” and “Italian Dalmatia” and “those who defended the values of our homeland” is a classic example of selective interpretation of the past which can be regularly heard at the commemorations of this type. Crimes and victims of “those who defended the values of the homeland” are forgotten, diminished and relativized, while the other side is accused of massive planned killings of “innocent citizens”.
We regret for every person killed in the foibas, and we remind of the crimes of the fascist Italy that Tajani did not mention. We will point out examples of two crimes in order to keep remembrance of them in public. On January 16, 1920, workers and citizens of Vodnjan, then under the rule of Italy, organized and opposed members of the Fascio Italiano di Combattimento, who tried to occupy the Workers’ home. In fight with fascist squads Pietro Benussi, Domenico Damiani and Pasquale Giachina lost their lives, while their wounded fellow citizens were captured and taken to Trieste. It was the first case of opposing advancing fascism in our country, as well as in Europe. At the end of fascist rule, on the day of Italian capitulation, September 11, 1943, the fascist camp of Kampor was liberated on the island of Rab (today in Croatia and then under fascist occupation), where more than 1,490 Slovenes, Croats, Jews and people of other nationalities who opposed fascism, died from hunger, thirst, neglect and abuse. The camp on Rab was the largest fascist camp with the highest mortality of detainees.
The opportunistic statement addressed to a specific audience at a certain event returned to Tajani as a boomerang and faced him with justified fierce reactions by Croatian and Slovene politicians of different political spectrum. Although forced, Tajani’s apology and expressed willingness to visit the site where victims of fascist terror suffered, is commendable. We want to believe that this is Tajani’s sincere acknowledgment of the mistake, as well as desire for critical confrontation with Italy’s past, not just a maneuver that should enable him to survive in prestigious function.
Equally, we hope that politicians who have publicly expressed their disapproval of Tajani’s statements in Basovizza/Bazovica, will be equally eloquent and quick in cases of future similar statements, regardless of where they come from, especially when it comes to mentioning the “Croatian areas in Herceg Bosna”. Critical confrontation with the past should become the principle of understanding and action, and not the means for gaining political points.
There is a plenty room for critical confrontation with the past. Despite the scientific research and joint conclusions of inter-state commissions, violence in the Eastern Adriatic region during and after the Second World War still provokes controversy in Italy, Croatia and Slovenia. In cooperation with partners from Italy, Slovenia and other countries, Documenta develops programs aimed at building a culture of memory based on the values of peace, cooperation and respect for the suffering of victims of political and war violence in the twentieth century. We consider constructive dealing with the past a fundamental precondition for peace and coexistence in contemporary Europe.
Documenta – Center for Dealing with the Past
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