STA, 13 February 2019 - The statement European Parliament President Antonio Tajani made in Italy's Basovizza on Sunday can also be understood as territorial claims, so I reject it completely, President Borut Pahor said on Wednesday. Tajani has meanwhile apologised for the statement after meeting Slovenian and Croatian MEPs over the matter.
"I expect Tajani to fully distance himself from his words," Pahor said on the sidelines of his calling the elections to the European Parliament in Slovenia.
He expects Tajani to realise his words were wrong and distance himself from them, which should be done as soon as possible to calm down the debate they have sparked off.
Pahor referred to the statement "Long live Trieste, long live Italian Istria, long live Italian Dalmatia, long live Italian exiles" Tajani made at the commemoration of the remembrance day for the Italian foibe victims.
He believes that in politics this is not an unimportant matter but a major issue which justifiably worries those to whom it refers.
Pahor added that Europe, which is built on reconciliation and mutual respect, cannot turn a blind eye to such words.
This is not the first time that senior Italian officials expressed unacceptable stances and assessments, Pahor stressed.
"But it is the first time that this happened in the context of European politics, when the European idea of integration and cooperation is weak, when there are serious signs of its crisis, when such stances are increasingly worrying."
It is due to these circumstances that Pahor expects the European Parliament president to come up with an appropriate and clear response.
Tajani met the Slovenian and Croatian MEPs from the European People's Party (EPP) group today and apologised for Sunday's statements in Basovizza after the meeting.
Tajani sorry for any offense
"I sincerely regret and I apologise for using the words which may have offended your citizens and which have been understood as a kind of a territorial claim. I assure you that this was neither my intention nor position on the matter," he said in a statement.
Tajani added that he was referring to the Italian-speaking exiles from Istria and Dalmatia, their children and grandchildren, many of whom attended the ceremony in Basovizza.
He said that his political career offered much evidence of his friendship and respect of Croatia and Slovenia, and added that all forms of totalitarianism deserved resolute condemnation.
Slovenian MEPs Franc Bogovič (EPP/SLS) and Lojze Peterle (EPP/NSi) said after the meeting that they were satisfied with the apology.
The EPP meanwhile announced that Tajani would also send a letter in a similar vein to Slovenian Foreign Minister Miro Cerar, who wrote to the European Parliament president about the matter yesterday.
Pahor addressed a letter about the incident to Italian President Sergio Mattarella already on Monday.