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Last Updated: Wednesday, 9 July, 2003, 11:27 GMT 12:27 UK
Excerpts: Italian minister's tourist attack
Stefano Stefani
Stefani made his comments in a Northern League newspaper
Excerpts of the open letter by Italian tourism minister Stefano Stefani, which has led German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder to reconsider his Italian holiday. The letter was published in La Padania, the newspaper of Mr Stefani's far-right Northern League.

We know the Germans well - these stereotyped blondes with ultra-nationalist pride, indoctrinated since way back when to feel top of the class at any price.

And just like any self-respecting "top of the class" pupils, they never miss an opportunity to behave in an arrogant manner.

I have never considered the Germans to be endowed with a particularly refined sense of humour

I have to admit that with many Italians, ready to kneel on a bed of nails if that is what it takes to please the adversary, they have found fertile terrain for their dogma reminiscent of an obsolete hillbilly parish priest.

Wednesday (2 July's European Parliament session) provided us with an enlightening example.

Sure enough, Martin Schulz, a former bookseller from Hehlrath, did not waste a minute in pressing a serious attack on our prime minister, or in questioning the intelligence of our cabinet ministers and their statements.

In so doing, Schulz deliberately insulted all those Italians who democratically decided through their vote to be represented by these parties and by these politicians.

Silvio Berlusconi
Berlusconi is under German pressure to remove the minister
I am shocked but not surprised. The Germans are old hands at such behaviour.

They rowdily invade our beaches but in their most widely read daily, Bild, right on cue before the beginning of every season, with a precision that is punctilious to say the least, they never omit to report the number of car thefts in Rimini or even the latest statistics for Mafia victims in Sicily.

Finally, Der Spiegel, to celebrate Italy's appointment to the European presidency, could find nothing better to put on its most recent cover than a photograph of Berlusconi sitting on throne under the headline "Der Pate", or the godfather.

The message could not be clearer. Berlusconi is a "Mafia boss" and thus Italy is a mafioso country consisting of a mafioso electorate that is happy to coexist with the Mafia.

History

I have never considered the Germans to be endowed with a particularly refined sense of humour, so this pitiable comparison did not make me laugh at all. Indeed, quite the contrary.

We are all familiar with our history. It is written in the history books and in the memories of those who have first-hand experience of it.

We do not need them to come and teach us anything. The Mafia is a synonym for death and suffering. Such comparisons are about as inopportune and as insulting as comparisons can get.

But Martin Schulz, who probably grew up amid noisy belching contests after gargantuan beer drinking sessions and huge helpings of fried potatoes, is unaware of this.

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.




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