Inside File: Cousins next door trouble Slovenes

IF you thought Slovenia was the one survivor among Yugoslavia's republics safely out of the woods of territorial dispute, think again. It is true that the country is a shining example of prosperity and stability relative to its fellow former republics. But old passions are stirring across the border in Italy, home of the optanti who chose Italian citizenship after the abolition of the Free Territory of Trieste 40 years ago.

It may not be quite as if the spirit of Gabriele d'Annunzio - the Italian poet and nationalist who in 1919 seized and held the Dalmatian port of Fiume, now Rijeka in Croatia - rides again. All the same, the Italians want something that cannot be acquired through money or legal niceties: the property the optanti (as the Slovenes call them) left behind when they fled Communist Yugoslavia.

Some 350,000 Italians left Slovenia and Croatia to settle in Italy. Between 30,000 and 40,000 of them still claim properties, or those of their families. Ljubljana and Zagreb say the issue was all but resolved in the 1975 Treaty of Osimo between Yugoslavia and Italy, which called for Yugoslavia to pay the Italians some pounds 80m in compensation. Before falling apart, Yugoslavia managed to disburse less than one sixth of the agreed amount; Slovenia and Croatia have expressed willingness to pay the remainder between them.

Not good enough, say the Italians. The Osimo Treaty was negotiated in dark secrecy during the Cold War, by a government in Rome under pressure from two fronts: the Americans - anxious to consolidate Tito as a cushion between East and West - and the Italian Communist Party in Enrico Berlinguer's heyday. Italian public opinion is demanding that Rome get its own back on Tito's partisans, now that Yugoslavia has been succeeded by small and vulnerable states, by demanding not money but land. The claim is somewhat like Germans seeking to regain property in Poland and what was Sudetenland.

Enter Livio Caputo, the deputy editor of the right-wing Il Giornale, who last year collected 144,000 signatures demanding for the Osimo Treaty to be renegotiated. 'It's not a question of money any more,' Mr Caputo argues. 'It's a question of national rights, and the feeling of having been kicked in the arse by Yugoslavia for too long.' The Italian Foreign Ministry has responded by opening negotiations with Slovenia and Croatia on 'improving' the treaty.

Historically, the Slovenes harbour a deep-seated suspicion of their Western neighbour - a key factor in their decision to help form Yugoslavia in 1918, only to find themsleves locked into a Serb-dominated federation. They are about to introduce legislation preventing foreign ownership of land - to guard, they say, against German holiday home-makers as much as the Italian claimants. They also point out that after four decades, many of the properties in question have been either destroyed or rebuilt completely. Mr Caputo's response: 'They want one day to be part of Europe. They say they have thrown Communism overboard and gone free-market. Why should they deny foreigners ownership of property? They should behave like Europeans, not like bloody Balkans.'

The Italians say they have little gripe 'at the moment' with the treatment of the few thousand ethnic Italians remaining in Slovenia. But they do accuse Croatia of not respecting existing agreements on the cultural rights of the larger Italian community there. The community has increased demands for cultural autonomy following a Croatian government proposal to resettle 20,000 ethnic Croats from Romania to the Istrian peninsula, home of a large part of Croatia's Italian community.

Slovenia's full membership to the Council of Europe - widely taken to be a graduation ceremony for fledgling democracies - goes to the vote next month. Italian officials say they will not veto the membership proposal, but it should be conditional upon guarantees that Slovenia will respect the right of minorities. A recent EC-Slovene co-operation agreement was accompanied by an Italian addendum on the principle of free proprety ownership. Given that, and Mr Caputo's 144,000 signatures, the issue looks unlikely to go away in a hurry.

Alexis Sanchez has completed a £35m move to Arsenal, the club have confirmed
sportGunners complete £35m signing of Barcelona forward
Poor teachers should be fearful of not getting pay rises or losing their job if they fail to perform, Steve Fairclough, headteacher of Abbotsholme School, suggested
voicesChris Sloggett explains why it has become an impossible career path
world cup 2014
Ray Whelan was arrested earlier this week
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
In a minor key: Keira Knightley in the lightweight 'Begin Again'
Arts and Entertainment
Celebrated children’s author Allan Ahlberg, best known for Each Peach Pear Plum
peopleIndian actress known as the 'Grand Old Lady of Bollywood' was 102
Wayne’s estate faces a claim for alleged copyright breaches
newsJohn Wayne's heirs duke it out with university over use of the late film star's nickname
Life and Style
It beggars belief: the homeless and hungry are weary, tortured, ghosts of people – with bodies contorted by imperceptible pain
lifeRough sleepers exist in every city. Hear the stories of those whose luck has run out
Mick Jagger performing at Glastonbury
Life and Style
fashionJ Crew introduces triple zero size to meet the Asia market demand
Santi Cazorla, Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Flamini of Arsenal launch the new Puma Arsenal kits at the Puma Store on Carnaby Street
sportMassive deal worth £150m over the next five years
Arts and Entertainment
Welsh opera singer Katherine Jenkins
musicHolyrood MPs 'staggered' at lack of Scottish artists performing
Life and Style
beautyBelgian fan lands L'Oreal campaign after being spotted at World Cup
Arts and Entertainment
Currently there is nothing to prevent all-male or all-female couples from competing against mixed sex partners at any of the country’s ballroom dancing events
Potential ban on same-sex partners in ballroom dancing competitions amounts to 'illegal discrimination'
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Business Analyst Consultant (Financial Services)

£60000 - £75000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Business Analyst Consultant (Fina...

Systems Administrator - Linux / Unix / Windows / TCP/IP / SAN

£60000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A leading provider in investment managemen...

AVS, JVS Openlink Endur Developer

£600 - £700 per day: Harrington Starr: AVS, JVS Openlink Endur Developer JVS, ...

E-Commerce Developer

£45000 - £60000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Exciting opp...

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice