Croatian leader rejects EU criticism over Croatia-Italy row

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Croatian leader rejects EU criticism over Croatia-Italy row

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The Croatian President Stipe Mesic has rejected EU criticism of him as ‘unilateral and unfair’. The European Commission had chided him for accusing his Italian counterpart of racism in a row over a Second World War massacre of Italians by Yugoslav communists.

European Commission spokeswoman Pia Ahrenkilde Hansen said the Croatian President’s comments “seemed inappropriate”.

She was asked if Croatia’s bid to join the EU could be affected by his remarks: “It is the Commission’s view that passionate exchanges of this kind show how important EU integration is for the climate of confidence and trust between European countries,” she said.

The spat broke out last Saturday when Italian President Giorgio Napolitano attended a remembrance ceremony for Italy’s victims. He said the killings were “tinged with sinister outlines of ethnic cleansing”

The massacre occurred during the last two years of the Second World War when Yugoslav forces moved into Istria and Dalmatia, regions which had been part of Italy since the 1920s.

The killings are known in Italy as the “foibe” from the name of deep caves where Yugoslav partisans dumped the bodies of up to 15,000 Italians.

It’s believed in Italy that the remarks made by Napolitano were meant for Italian ears only but they did not go down well in Croatia.

The war of words is likely to continue.