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Last Updated: Tuesday, 12 October, 2004, 15:39 GMT 16:39 UK
Italian press stung by EU 'slap'

The Italian press sees MEPs' rejection of the country's nominee for European justice commissioner as a national humiliation - but some show a certain understanding for the decision.

Rocco Buttiglione
The vote rejecting Mr Buttiglione is non-binding

The European Parliament's Civil Liberties Committee - whose vote is non-binding - narrowly rejected Rocco Buttiglione, the European affairs minister in Silvio Berlusconi's government.

Mr Buttiglione, a devout Roman Catholic, had told an EU hearing last week that he thought homosexuality was a sin.

The Turin daily La Stampa sees red and describes the EU committee's vote as "a resounding slap in the face for Italy".

It partly blames wider issues, such as Italy's support for the Iraq war, and says Mr Buttiglione's professional skills were disregarded.

'Pedantic defiance'

But the paper also criticises what it calls his "pedantic defiance" at the hearing.

It is Rocco Buttiglione who has been rejected, not Jesus Christ
La Repubblica

"Instead of thawing the frostiness caused by some of his rash declarations on the role of women, on homosexuality, on immigrants, [this defiance] exacerbated the differences."

The paper says Mr Buttiglione displayed political naivety "unforgivable" in a man of such long parliamentary experience.

"Two routes are open to Berlusconi," the paper continues.

He can "widen the gulf being created between Italy and Europe or take the opportunity to clarify government policy towards the EU".


Rome's La Repubblica shows far less sympathy for Mr Buttiglione.

"It is Rocco Buttiglione who has been rejected, not Jesus Christ," writes one commentator in the paper.

"Buttiglione is not Catholicism and not even Christianity. Indeed, his homophobic and male-centred Jesus is not that of the majority of us Europeans."

"Buttiglione obviously has the right to play God as he pleases and to lead a life of home and church, not to divorce, not to spread his semen, to flee temptations... and to fear homosexuals," he continues.

"But he does not have the right to summon God to the defence of his own political inadequacies, of his own prejudices."

The most widely read newspaper in Italy, Milan's Corriere della Sera, thinks that in any case the damage has been done.

Even if Mr Buttiglione's nomination is finally accepted, it says, his "original sin" will hound him throughout his Brussels career.

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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