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Last Updated: Thursday, 10 July, 2003, 12:35 GMT 13:35 UK
Press upset at Italy-Germany row
Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder
Schroeder has said "basta to pasta" - Bild

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's decision to cancel his Italian holiday in response to a minister's description of German tourists as "hyper-nationalistic blondes" has provoked a mixed response in both countries.

While Italian papers seem keen to play down the affair, German papers are on the whole still aghast at Italian ministerial lack of tact.

But they are divided on whether Mr Schroeder has made the right decision in opting for a holiday at home.

"Basta! Chancellor Schroeder says no to pasta! Addio! Ciao! Arrivederci! Chancellor Schroeder has had enough of Italian insults," Germany's highest circulation tabloid Bild says on its front page.

This may be the staple diet of British tabloids, but has no place in European high politics
Die Welt

In a commentary, the paper says junior tourism minister Stefano Stefani's "insults" were unprovoked and unnecessary.

German regret

"We can take criticism, but will not allow ourselves to be insulted... The Italian hooligan Stefani will resign. If not, he has to be sacked. Politicians come and go. Nations remain," it says.

But the paper also reminds its readers of the long-standing German-Italian friendship, and hopes the affair will not escalate any further.

"Italian friends! Amici! In a year, we will again be drinking a glass of wine together. At YOUR invitation," it says.

In a commentary entitled "Arrivederci Rimini", the business daily Handelsblatt, on the other hand, regrets Mr Schroeder's decision.

"The Germans and their government should be self-confident enough to ignore the stupid remarks of a subordinate Italian politician," it says.

Instead, the paper argues, Mr Schroeder has now given Mr Stefani's "unspeakable insults" greater prominence, and is now himself "fanning the flames of resentment".

Die Welt says Mr Schroeder's decision is "pure populism", and thinks the chancellor's continuing unpopularity is making him "clutch at every straw".

The collapse of this government's international credibility and presentability is now vertical
La Repubblica

But the paper also voices understanding for Mr Schroeder's decision.

"Berlusconi would never have offered the position of concentration camp commandant to a Brit or a Frenchman. This may be the staple diet of British tabloids, but has no place in European high politics," it says.

The liberal daily Sueddeutsche, however, thinks Schroeder has made the mistake of turning silliness into an affair of state.

"Schroeder is now sulking on behalf of all Germans. This is regrettable, and will confirm many a prejudice about us abroad," the paper says.

Italian response

Italian press coverage of the affair is more low-key, with many papers relegating the story to the back pages.

Berlusconi-owned Il Giornale, for instance, only mentions the exchange of insults in a report on page 10, focusing instead on the spat within Italy's coalition government.

A commentary in Corriere della Sera says the two main actors at the centre of the row, German MEP Martin Schulz and Mr Stefani, are similarly "unpolished", and calls them both a "pair of roosters".

Rome's La Repubblica alone devotes much space to the spat, and says Silvio Berlusconi's cool response to the German chancellor's holiday cancellation "adds insult to injury".

"Berlusconi is wrong, because 83% of Germans agree with the chancellor's decision," it says. "Many of them will be imitating him, and will boycott our beaches."

The paper is even more concerned by the long-term political damage.

"The collapse of this government's international credibility and presentability is now vertical, but not only in the eyes of other governments, but also in the eyes of our EU partners' grass-roots opinion," it says, and concludes: "The affair is not over."

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.

European press review
10 Jul 03  |  Europe
Schroeder scrubs Italian holiday
09 Jul 03  |  Europe

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