italian pm lashes out again!

  1. 3,918 Posts.
    Just came across this article and found it not a bad read and quite funny how the Italians portray the Germans. However, having said that the Italians better hope they don't lose their German tourists or else they're in trouble. Then again, if you were a German where would you rather holiday - Germany or Italy, me thinks the latter by far LOL!!!

    Check it out-

    Friday, Jul. 11, 2003.

    Italians Launch Insults, Schroeder Stays Home

    By Richard Bernstein
    New York Times Tervice BERLIN -- No sooner did Italy and Germany extricate themselves from the diplomatic imbroglio of last week than they got into another one on Wednesday, with Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder reacting to an Italian official's insulting remarks about German tourists by imposing an unusual sanction: He canceled his vacation in Italy.

    Schroeder seemed to be bowing to German public opinion, aroused this time by some inexplicably tactless comments by Stefano Stefani, an Italian undersecretary responsible for tourism, who characterized the 8 million German tourists who visit each year as beer-swilling, chauvinistic boors who, come summer, "invade the beaches of Italy."

    This latest fracas began last Friday when Stefani, who is a member of the small nationalist Northern League, wrote in a letter to his party's newspaper, La Padania, "We know the Germans well, those stereotyped blondes with a hyper-nationalist pride who have always been indoctrinated to be first in the class at any cost."

    Angrily following up comments by Silvio Berlusconi, the Italian Prime Minister, that likened a German deputy in the European Parliament to a functionary in a Nazi concentration camp, Stefani called Germany a "country intoxicated with arrogant certainties." While they like to vacation in Italy, he said, the Germans also like to deal in anti-Italian stereotypes.

    The newspaper Bild, Stefani continued, referring to Bild Zeitung, Germany's largest mass-circulation tabloid, "doesn't forget to lie about the number of car thefts in Rimini, or even the last statistics from Mafia killings in Sicily."

    The two nations were on opposite sides in the debates over war against Iraq, with Schroeder a leading European opponent of American policy and Berlusconi in favor of it. Then came Berlusconi's remarks last week, which did not go over well in Europe in general but went over extremely badly in Germany.

    On Wednesday, Stefani refused to take back anything he had said, and Berlusconi, who did not follow the advice of at least two German Cabinet ministers to fire Stefani, also showed no particular regret over the latest incident. Asked by Italian reporters for his reaction to Schrßder's cancellation, Berlusconi replied, "I'm sorry for him."

    Demonstrating that one insult leads to another, Stefani attacked Der Spiegel, the newsmagazine, for putting an unflattering portrait of Berlusconi on its cover last week before the incident in the European Parliament with the caption, "The Godfather."

    Finally, Stefani had these choice words about Martin Schulz, the German deputy who had criticized Berlusconi and was then excoriated by him. "This Schulz," Stefani wrote, "probably grew up taking part in noisy burping contests, after drinking gigantic amounts of beer and gorging himself on fried potatoes."

    As word of these comments spread in Germany, resentment mounted. The headline in Bild on Wednesday read, "Stand firm, Chancellor, Nix Bella Italia," and quick polls showed 80 percent of the German public believing that Schroeder, who often vacations in Italy, was right to cancel his vacation there this year.

    The German interior minister, Otto Schily, who, like other members of Schroeder's Cabinet, often vacations in Italy, said, referring obviously to Stefani, "If I were the Italian head of government, that man would no longer be in office.

    "Those who kick you in the shins and spit at you must not be surprised that that is not good publicity for their country," Schily said.

    Feasting on the incident, Bild on Wednesday quoted a second senior member of Schroeder's Cabinet, Economics Minister Wolfgang Clement, saying of Stefani, "He should be taken out of circulation."

    Schroeder himself, who has spent his summer vacation in Italy twice in the last three years, at first declined, through his spokesman, to say whether he would cancel his vacation plans, though the spokesman, Bela Anda, called Stefani's comments "a blanket insult to all Germans who like to holiday in Italy."

    In similar fashion last week after the exchange in the European Parliament, Schroeder spoke with Berlusconi on the phone, saying afterward that Berlusconi expressed regret for what he had said and that he, Schroeder, considered the matter to be closed.

    But at the end of the afternoon on Wednesday, Anda said Schroeder would not be vacationing in Italy this year.

    One effect of the commotion could be to directly affect the Italian economy. German tourists last year accounted for 40 percent of all visitors to Italy and spent about $10 billion, according to The Financial Times.

    Reflecting the loss of revenue if Germans stopped going to Italy, Palmiro Ucchielli, president of the province of Pesaro on the Adriatic, where Schroeder was supposed to take his vacation, demanded financial damages from Berlusconi because of the chancellor's cancellation.

    "The stupidity of the people who are leading the government is so great that they are causing powerful economic damage to our image as a tourist destination," he said.

 
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