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Last Updated: Saturday, 5 July, 2003, 11:14 GMT 12:14 UK
Germany sickened by Berlusconi

By Tristana Moore
BBC, Berlin

"When will it ever end?" the tabloid Bild newspaper asked on Friday, reflecting the general sense of frustration amongst Germans.

Silvio Berlusconi and Gerhard Schroeder
Schroeder (r) has been avoiding further questions about the gaffe
They are fed up. More than half a century after World War II, national stereotypes are still being dredged up.

Many Germans regard Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's comments that a German member of the European Parliament would be "perfect" for the role of a guard in a film about a Nazi concentration camp as insensitive and crass.

Young people who have had to come to terms with their country's Nazi past are equally astounded that a senior statesman could have put his foot in his mouth.

The German Chancellor, Gerhard Schroeder, claims the row with Italy is now over after Silvio Berlusconi telephoned Mr Schroeder to express his "regret".

GERMANS HIT BACK
Germans comment on Berlusconi's remarks

The German chancellor has spent the day holed up in his office holding private meetings, avoiding any further questions about Mr Berlusconi's gaffe.

But for Martin Schulz, the German member of the European Parliament at the centre of the affair, the row is far from over.

In an interview with a German radio station, Mr Schulz denied that he had provoked Silvio Berlusconi and said the Italian Prime Minister must apologise to the European Parliament.

"If Berlusconi were to say: people, I am wrong, it won't be repeated, then the incident is settled. It has to be made clear to him, this is not a boxing match," Mr Schulz told Deutschlandradio.

Berlusconi-bashing in the media and political circles will continue
Tom Levine
Berliner Zeitung

In comparing a German politician to a concentration camp guard, and appearing to make a joke of the Nazi era, Silvio Berlusconi has broken one of Europe's long-standing taboos.

He has also violated rules of etiquette in Europe's central institutions.

The German EU commissioner, Guenter Verheugen, told the Berliner Zeitung newspaper that Mr Berlusconi's outburst had damaged the Italian presidency and had hurt Europe.

So while Silvio Berlusconi and Gerhard Schroeder may be trying to play down the diplomatic fall-out from the affair, the damage has been done.

"The crisis is certainly over for the German Government for the time being," Tom Levine from the Berliner Zeitung newspaper told the BBC. "But Berlusconi-bashing in the media and political circles will continue."




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