European Parliament Speaker Antonio Tajani (Photo: HRT) European Parliament Speaker Antonio Tajani (Photo: HRT)

European Parliament President Antonio Tajani ended his speech in at the event in Bassovizza on Sunday with the words: "Long live Italian Istria, long live Italian Dalmatia, long live Italian exiles." His words suggested he was laying Italian claims to Slovenian and Croatian territory.

Tajani told the European Parliament on Monday that his remarks had been misinterpreted and claimed his meaning when he said the words Italian Istria and Dalmatia, had not been in the “territorial sense”. He told Croatian reporters at the European Parliament that his message was about the three peoples living in peace.

"My message was one of peace. I wanted to show that in the EU, Italians, Slovenians, and Croatians could live together in peace," Tajani said, adding that he was sorry his words had been interpreted as vengeful and aggressive.

“Everyone who knows me personally knows what my positions are. I have visited Slovenia and Croatia many times. The Italian minorities there have to work with Croatian authorities and respect their rules,” Tajani said.

Croatian politicians condemned the remarks and expressed and surprise over them. President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović said he would lodge a complaint with Italian and European institutions. Prime Minister Andrej Plenković rebuked Tajani, describing his remarks as “historically revisionist” and “inappropriate”. He reiterated his response on Tuesday and said Tajani's explanation missed the mark.

"We still stand by my statement. We condemn and reject the remarks. They were inappropriate."

SDP leader Davor Bernardić is asking the HDZ to initiate Tajani's recall by the EPP in the European Parliament.

"The real question is, does he, as the President of the European Parliament, recognize the territorial integrity of the Republic of Croatia? This is the worst historical revisionism we've seen from an Italian politician and it is scandalous and shameful," Bernardić said.

Slovenian leaders have also sharply condemned Tajani's remarks. President Borut Pahor has sent a letter to his Italian counterpart Sergio Mattarella. In it, he expresses concern over remarks made by Italian officials that seem to equate the foibe massacres at the end of WWII as ethnic cleansing.

Tajani was speaking on Sunday at an event commemorating the Italian victims of a WWII massacre by Yugoslav communists that took place near the border with Slovenia. His remarks stunned many here because Istria and Dalmatia had been occupied by Italian fascists during WWII. The victims of the so-called “foibe” massacres were Italians others who opposed the Yugoslav Communist takeover of Trieste in May 1945.