Verona (Italy), Aug. 23 (Reuters): After shying away from an opera rendezvous, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi met German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder today for the first time since his Nazi jibe caused a diplomatic furore.
Italy’s billionaire businessman-turned-politician provoked an uproar at the start of July when he likened a German lawmaker to a Nazi concentration camp guard, casting a shadow over Italy’s six-month presidency of the EU.
But today he stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Schroeder in the medieval Italian city of Verona and both played down the summer spat, and Berlusconi's no-show at the opera yesterday.
“I don’t think we can talk about an improvement (in relations) because there was never a worsening,” Berlusconi said after their brief meeting.
“There’s no doubt that there have been minor irritations here and there but this has not affected our personal relationship, nor has it affected the political relationship between Germany and Italy,” he said.
Berlusconi said his absence at yesterday’s performance of Carmen in Verona's ancient Roman amphitheatre had prevented a disruption by whistle-blowing Left-wing protesters.