The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Berlusconi Nazi jibe sparks fury

Strasbourg (France), July 2 (Reuters): Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi ruined his debut at the head of the EU today when he rebuked a critic by saying the German lawmaker would make a perfect Nazi concentration camp chief.

Berlusconi’s jibe, which he refused to withdraw but insisted had been an ironic joke, caused fury in the European Parliament, completely overshadowing his presentation of Italy’s priorities for its six-month EU presidency, which began yesterday.

However, Berlusconi offered a partial apology after the German government summoned the Italian ambassador in Berlin over the comments.

The outburst, compounded by an exchange in which he called members of European parliament (MEPs) who heckled him “democracy tourists”, fuelled the doubts of those who have questioned Berlusconi’s suitability to lead the 15-nation bloc, given his legal problems and media interests.

It came in response to criticism by German Social Democratic MEP Martin Schulz of an alleged conflict of interest between his political role and his extensive media holdings, as well as of comments on immigration by reforms minister Umberto Bossi. “Mr Schulz, I know there is in Italy a man producing a film on the Nazi concentration camps. I would like to suggest you for the role of Kapo. You’d be perfect,” Berlusconi said.

He refused to retract the remark when given the opportunity by European Parliament President Pat Cox, who expressed regret at the offence caused to Schulz and said he believed it would be appropriate “to correct the record in this regard”.

Kapos were usually petty criminals, sometimes Jewish, used by Nazi German death camp authorities during World War II to enforce discipline.

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