The Brief – Tajani’s blunder

A Twitter clash has broken out between Slovenian Commissioner Violeta Bulc and European Parliament President Antonio Tajani over the latter’s involvement, together with Lega leader Matteo Salvini, in a commemoration perceived as a fascist gathering.

Both Salvini and Tajani took the floor at the event on Sunday in Basovizza, near the Slovenian border, close to a place where many Italians were thrown alive by Tito’s Yugoslav partisans in deep Karst sinkholes known as foibe.

The background is complicated. After World War I, the whole of the Istria peninsula in the northern Adriatic (now shared by Croatia and Slovenia) was annexed by Italy. The Italianisation (or ‘ethnic improvement’) of the Slavic population started during the Fascist era.

The first claims of people being thrown into foibe date back to 1943, after the Wehrmacht took back the area from the Partisans. At that time around 70 local people were thrown into a foiba by the Germans.

Later, in the 1943-1945 period, it is estimated that hundreds, maybe thousands of Italians, both soldiers and civilians, were thrown alive in the foibe by Tito’s partisans.

A joint Italian-Slovene report published in 2000 speaks of “hundreds of summary executions”.

Salvini made a direct comparison between “the children who died at Auschwitz and the children who died at Basovizza”. Speaking at the same event, Tajani said “thousands of innocent victims (were) killed for being Italians… by soldiers wearing a red star on their heads.”

This prompted Slovenian President Borut Pahor to express his outrage about suggestions that the foibe killings represent ethnic cleansing, in a letter to Italian President Sergio Mattarella. Slovenian Prime Minister Marjan Šarec denounced “historical revisionism” in favour of fascism.

Commissioner Bulc called Tajani’s statement “worrying”. “This is not something we expect from our European leaders. Distortion of historical facts on the Slovenian-Italian border is unacceptable”, she adds.

“History is History”, replied Tajani, using his Italian Twitter account.

That, however, was just the start of the keyboard battle.

“I am inviting you that we jointly visit Bazovica victims memorial at Gmajna and Trieste’s Risiera,” retorted Bulc. Risiera di San Sabba is a five-storey brick compound located in Trieste, northern Italy, which functioned as a Nazi concentration camp during World War II.

Then Tajani replies: “I am ready”, while a Twitter user shouts at him in capital letters “F*** YOU FASCIST”. (The tweet has since been deleted, but we have a copy).

To this, Tajani shouts back: “Communist!”

Another Twitter user reacts: “Name calling? What are you? A four-year old? You should resign. Or better yet, you oughta be fired.”

For those who are curious about the history of Italy, the struggle there has for many decades been among communists and fascists. By reacting to a message he should have ignored, Tajani has positioned himself with extremists.

A Twitter war is one thing. But Tajani appearing in the company of Salvini at meetings where skinheads stage torch marches is a bigger blunder. Unless, that is, this is the future Italian coalition?

The Roundup

by Alexandra Brzozowski

The UK admitted that it will fail to roll over EU trade deals. Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier has told PM Theresa May to endorse a permanent customs union with the bloc to break the impasse over the looming divorce.

MEPs criticised the amount and severity of injuries suffered during the demonstartions by the French ‘yellow vest’ movement, while the Commission seems to turn a blind eye on this.

Finland is the first country to complete a nation-wide experiment on universal basic income. With the first results in, Finnish Finance Minister Petteri Orpo told EURACTIV that the largest parties in his country no longer support the idea.

A large majority of EU governments opposed the European Commission’s proposal to end the unanimity required to pass legislation on taxation.

Women are the great forgotten group of agricultural policies but represent a quarter of French farmers. Brittany’s “agriculture au féminin” network is attempting to push for gender equality. Meanwhile, the Commission blacklists palm oil and throws soybeans  a lifeline.

A European Court of Justice decision on Germany’s controversial motorway toll and a proposed tightening of deportation laws for asylum seekers has provoked the ire of Austrians over the past week.

For new CDU party chair Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, reforming migration policy represents an opportunity to distance herself from Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Look out for…

NATO defence ministers meet in Brussels for the next two days to talk nuclear deterrence, money and Afghanistan. Look out for the first appearance of acting US Secretary of Defence Patrick M. Shanahan.

Simultaneously, the US-initiated conference on the Middle East (Iran!) starts in Warsaw tomorrow.

Views are the author’s

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]

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