- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 8, 2003

ROME — Italy tried yesterday to put out the latest diplomatic blaze damaging its faltering, week-old EU presidency, saying that a junior minister who called Germans “hypernationalistic blonds” was a lone voice.

Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi made a conciliatory phone call to the president of the European Parliament, and Italy’s foreign minister said Germans are welcome in his country.

Mr. Berlusconi expressed regret for his earlier statement comparing a European Union lawmaker from Germany to a Nazi prison-camp guard.

Foreign Minister Franco Frattini tried to repair a rift caused when an official described Germans as “stereotyped blonds with a hypernationalist pride.”

The official’s remarks prompted Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder to threaten to cancel his vacation in Italy.

Mr. Berlusconi had expressed his regret to Mr. Schroeder for a remark to German heckler, Martin Schulz, who is also a member of the European Parliament.

The president of the European Parliament, Pat Cox, said in a statement that Mr. Berlusconi “expressed his regret” during a telephone conversation yesterday afternoon for having made “certain expressions and comparisons which hurt the sensitivities” of European Parliament members.

“Mr. Berlusconi added that his intentions may have been misunderstood, and that in no way had he ever intended to offend,” Mr. Cox said.

The conversation came as Mr. Frattini told newspapers that he hoped the recent comments by Stefano Stefani, an Industry Ministry undersecretary, would not undermine the “traditional friendship” between Italy and Germany.

German tourists “know well they are welcome in our country, as we know we are welcome guests in Germany,” Mr. Frattini said.

Mr. Stefani called Germany a “country intoxicated with arrogant certainties” in remarks published Friday, a day after Mr. Berlusconi’s phone conversation with Mr. Schroeder about the Nazi comment.

“We know the Germans well, these stereotyped blonds with a hypernationalist pride who have always been indoctrinated to be first in the class at any cost,” he wrote in the Northern League party’s newspaper, La Padania.


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