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April 24, 1995
. Vreme News Digest Agency No 186

Slovenia: Ljubljana Strikes Back at Italy

The latest events on the Rome-Ljubljana line show that a solution to their dispute is far away and that talks to date have done little despite a lot of imagination and tension.

Slovenia's foreign minister Zoran Thaler and his Italian counterpart Suzzana Agnelli exchanged unpleasant letters over the past few weeks. First, the Italian foreign minister criticized Thaler for his statements on the validity of the agreement between the two countries. Then, Thaler warned Agnelli that Slovenia will also raise the question of real estate (which Italy has already raised) but this time the property taken from Slovenians in Italy. To back up his stands, Thaler sent his special negotiator Matjaz Jancar to Rome to show Italian officials documents about the confiscation and damages in the 1920s, 30s and 40s. Sources at that meeting said the Italians were visibly shocked.

When the initial shock passed, the Italians made an offer; a debate on Slovenian property is impossible today since so much time has passed. "You're right," the Slovenians said and added: "That's what we've been saying for three years. That's why we have to stick to existing agreements."

So the Slovenians found a way to respond to Italy which has been blocking their negotiations with the European Union by raising the issue of Italians who packed their bags and left Tito's Yugoslavia right after World War II.

There's also a tense and covert diplomatic game underway between Rome, Zagreb, Belgrade and Ljubljana concerning missing lists of property owned by former Italian citizens. Some Slovenian magazines said Slovenian diplomats sent several emissaries to Belgrade to search for documents but those efforts failed. The emissaries could not even get copies of the documents which isn't unusual since Belgrade has not been inclined to give Slovenia any documents which clearly define the former Yugoslav borders with Italy, Austria and Hungary.


Istria: World Congress


"Croatia! Croatia! Istria is Croatia! Istria is Croatia", a group of protesters shouted while Istrian bishop Luciano Delbianco closed the first World Congress of Istrians in Italian, Slovenian and Croatian. The protest came over a declaration on Istria which Debianco read moments earlier.

The 200 strong protest, headed by local HDZ (Croatia's ruling nationalist party) chief Marin Golob in the lobby of the hotel where the congress was held issued its own declaration, flinging heavy accusations and harsh language at the organizers of the congress, naming the leaders of the Istrian Democratic Council (IDS) and accusing them of swallowing the bait that the Serbs dangled in front of them to destroy Croatia.

That protest raised the media fuss over the congress to an ecstatic climax. The congress organizers faced a barrage of media accusations over the goals of the gathering. The IDS made no secret of the fact that their initiative stemmed form their political declaration and that was obviously the only way to counter the media. The Croatian president and his ruling HDZ party saw the congress as an open challenge which was evident from Croatian state TV (HTV) reactions. An unusual amount of time was given to the HDZ to condemn the congress and organizers and no time was given to the Istrians.

They responded through the symbols of the gathering; the white dove of peace, a goat as a symbol of historic identity and a dolphin as a symbol of intelligence. The IDS made only one blunder which drew negative reactions from everyone in Croatia; they didn't play the Croatian national anthem. That drew a protest from Golob (after a day's wait to hear from his central committee) and a demand for a minute's silence to honor the dead in the Fatherland war.

The congress observed a minute of silence on its second day but tensions still ran high. The HDZ pushed for a confrontation even before the gathering opened and the IDS could only respond.

The blind fear of any regionalization, especially the Istrian particularities, brought HDZ unitarism to the forefront in ways that will produce adverse effects in Istria. Namely, HTV does not enjoy too much trust, least of all in Istria. The new divisions created a feeling of distrust among Istrians for Zagreb and the HDZ.


Montenegro: Romany Year in Danilovgrad


The police took just two hours to arrest two Romany youths for raping an underage girl, but the entire Romany colony in Danilovgrad was packing up to flee already. The rape caused headaches for the Romanies and other Danilovgrad residents as well as the authorities and police.

Everything began on April 14 when a father went looking for his missing daughter just before midnight after she failed to come home from school. He found her, beaten and raped not far from home. It's not hard to understand the parents' pain and neighbor's anger over a crime unprecedented in that part of Montenegro. They say this was the first rape ever committed in Danilovgrad. The police was quick to react and just two hours later, two underage Romanies (aged 14 and 15) were arrested and confessed. The police didn't have far to look because the Bozova Glavica colony which housed some 100 Romanies is just 200 meters from the local police station. So while the police were completing their paperwork, scores of angry residents rallied in front of the station demanding a special session of the local authorities to expel the Romanies from Danilovgrad.

The Romanies fled quickly, leaving possessions behind. The protests continued the next day. Saturday is market day in the town and there are up to five times as many people there as on any other day. The rape was discussed everywhere, in every restaurant and bar the Romanies were judged and condemned. Not a single Romany was on the streets of Danilovgrad that day, not even people who always lived there, not even people who integrated into the local community. Even the Romanies who were respected citizens stayed at home.

At around 3:00 p.m., a fire broke out in the Romany colony and burned down all the flimsy cottages. Firemen were powerless to stop the fire and there wasn't anyone left in the colony to help them. Someone obviously wanted the Romanies out for good. The police started looking for the arsonists. Several suspects were arrested by the next day but an explosion blew apart Rama Redzep's abandoned apartment. The police stepped up their efforts and arrested some 20 suspects.

That drew another protest gathering, with residents condemning the rape but demanding the release of the suspected arsonists and bombers.

On Tuesday, the Montenegrin republican police issued a statement chronicling the events. It said people gathered in the Romany colony and set fire to the Romany cottages. The statement said that 12 of the 20 arrested suspects had been released after interrogation and added that the investigation established that Veselin Popovic and Dragisa Makocevic committed the crime of possessing and using explosives.

Some Danilovgrad residents said the protests should have ended once the rapists were arrested and added that everything else dishonors Danilovgrad. An elderly resident told VREME that the whole thing can no longer be countered by the fact that inter-ethnic relations were fine in the town, that the Romanies lived freely in the center of town, bothering no one.

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