Tajani, a member of the European People’s Party, was accused over statements he made at a ceremony commemorating Italian victims of World War II massacres.
The Italian deputy had spoken, along with Italy’s interior minister Matteo Salvini, on Sunday in Basovizza, near the Slovenian border.
The spot is close to where many of the victims were killed by Tito’s Yugoslav partisans and often thrown alive into deep sinkholes known as “foibe”.
Slovenian president Borut Pahor reacted by saying he was “deeply concerned by inadmissible statements by senior Italian officials suggesting that the foibe (killings) represented ethnic cleansing.”
Further condemnation came from Slovenian Prime Minister Marjan Sarec, who said, “It’s unprecedented historical revisionism. Fascism was a fact and its objective was destroying the Slovenian people.”
Tajani has now responded to the criticism by issuing a statement in which he apologies for causing any offence, adding that it was “not my intention to offend anyone.”
The statement, issued on Monday, reads, “On Sunday, I participated in the commemoration of the Day of Remembrance of the Victims of the Foibe Massacres, laying a wreath at the edge of the Basovizza Foiba in Trieste, Italy. It is a solemn commemoration instituted by Italian state law in 2004.”
"I am sorry if the sense of my words has been misinterpreted. It was not my intention to offend anyone. I just wanted to send a message of peace between peoples, so that what happened never happens again” Antonio Tajani
"I identify with the President of the Italian Republic’s speech last Saturday: 'Commemorating the Day of Remembrance means reliving a dark chapter in national and international history. It was not retaliation against the wrongs of Fascism. Among the Italian victims of intolerable ideological, ethnic and social hatred, there were many who had nothing to do with the fascists and their persecutions.”
He goes on, "By being there, I wanted to remember the thousands of victims - mainly Italian, but also Croatian and Slovenian - of what should be considered one of the most heinous tragedies of the previous century. The horror of thousands of people thrown, often alive, into the depths of sinkholes, is an established historical fact. The Day of Remembrance aims to restore this truth.”
"In my speech, I wanted to highlight the path to peace and reconciliation between the Italian, Croatian and Slovenian peoples and their contribution to the European project. My reference to Istria and Italian Dalmatia was in no way a territorial claim. I was referring to the Istrian and Dalmatian Italian-language exiles, their children and grandchildren, many of whom were present at the ceremony.”
"It is precisely by restoring the historical truth that it was possible to reach a turning point in relations between Italy, Croatia and Slovenia, countries linked today by strong friendship. The lasting peace between the enemies of the past is the best example of how the European Union is a success story.”
Tajani adds,"I am sorry if the sense of my words has been misinterpreted. It was not my intention to offend anyone. I just wanted to send a message of peace between peoples, so that what happened never happens again.”