Posts Tagged ‘Adriatic’

Creating peace – an underrated achievement of the EU

August 14, 2009

“Sovereignty of the Free Territory belongs to the people living in that territory.” Anodyne words these may seem, but they are loaded. The corollary is that  sovereignty does NOT belong to those not living there … not any more.

The inscription is on a memorial in a fishing village on Slovenia’s Adriatic coast. The village looks Italian: it has a clock tower like St Mark’s in Venice. It WAS in fact earlier Italian. At the end of World War II Tito’s Yugoslav Partisans seized it together with the city of Trieste.

In 1954, an international treaty gave Trieste to Italy and the rest of the coast to the Yugoslavs. The same evening as the treaty was signed, the Italians from the settlements along the coast left their homes, abandoning pots cooking on stoves, and walked over to Italy as refugees.

They were scared for their lives, and for good reason. The Partisans had slaughtered thousand of Italians on the coast in 1945 before U.N. authority was established. It was a reprisal for the cruel, racist occupation of parts of Slovenia and Croatia during WWII, when Italian Fascists burned villages, shot hostages and sent thousands of young men to concentration camps where they starved and died. The Italians were afraid that withdrawal of the U.N. would lead to another bloodbath.

After 1954, tension continued to run high along a border of barbed wire and armed guards. Trieste was packed with thousands of resentful Italian emigrants. The Yugoslavs bristled with Communist militancy.

By 2004, Slovenia and Italy were both in the European Union. The concept  of government by nation states had reached its limits of absurdity. Many inhabitants in the area had had 5 sets of different state identity papers without ever moving from the house where they were born.  And still no real peace.

Now that both Slovenia and Italy are in the EU, people can move freely from one country to another to work, they use the same currency (the euro), and they drive through the old frontier without having to stop (Schengen).

Harmonious co-existence has broken out. A supranational organisation such as the EU may have its drawbacks, but many in the West do not give it the full credit for creating peace where before there was killing and hatred.

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Trawling for lunch

June 28, 2009

We’ll catch your lunch, say the crew as we board a fishing boast for a day’s cruise among the Adriatic island off Croatia. Sounds anodyne, but it’s not. Out go nets for over a kilometre behind us. Some parts make the net drag along the bottom. Others hold the mouth 50 metres apart. A forward section stirs up the sandy sea bottom so that fish swim up and into the mouth of the following net. Filters select what we really want to catch. It’s a huge harvesting operation, developed and refined over the ages.

The engine throbs and billows diesel fumes as the boat wallows slowly forward against the heavy drag of the nets. After two hours the crew pull it all up again, and in a wriggling pouch at the end is our lunch.
Food is preceded by a little thrill of danger: a few of the fish have highly poisonous spines. Touch one and you lose a whole hand if your boat does not have iodine and boiling water as an antidote. They are weeded out by a handsome young fisherman, who speaks perfect English and is otherwise a computer student at Rijeka university.

The bigger fish have distended bellies and one has a bit of gut bulging out. The difference in pressure from 70 metres down on the floor of the sea makes most die within about 20 minutes of being brought to the surface. The handsome fisherman shovels the smaller ones back into the sea, and begins chopping off the heads of the live survivors. No stunning as that takes extra time and is hardly any more comfortable for the fish. The gullets bulge from their mouths as the knife cuts through.

Lunch is excellent. The fish taste really fresh, nicely fried and battered and served with chilled Croatian white wine.

Sounds brutal? Indeed yes, but do you imagine ANY fish you eat meets a nicer end?


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