Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has expressed regrets over remarks comparing a German politician to a Nazi guard.
The Italian leader triggered uproar in the European Parliament when he suggested that Martin Schulz, a heckling German MEP who had criticised him, would be perfectly cast as a Nazi concentration camp guard in a forthcoming film.
In a telephone call to German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, Mr Berlusconi "expressed his regret about the choice of this expression and comparison," Mr Schroeder told reporters.
Mr Berlusconi made the remarks on Wednesday as he outlined the priorities of Italy's EU presidency, which lasts for the next six months.
How do you think Mr Berlusconi's comments will affect Italy's presidency of the EU? Can it work after this row?
Thank you for your e-mails. This debate is now closed.
The following comments reflect the balance of views we have received:
Everyone reacts differently to provocations. Mr. Schulz accusations were uncalled for, he in fact wanted to provoke, hence got back what he deserved. Stop making such a fuss and start doing some good work for the people they are supposed to represent.
It just goes to show the gap in honesty and humour between North Europe and the passion of South Europe. Let us move on and get a life and not get bogged down by this!
A clear sign that nationalism lives under the skin of all Europeans. Sooner or later these types of flames will surface, and once again Europe will split
Anwar Annow, Pakistan
The only sad aspect of this media show about a jibe is that it got all the attention rather than concentrating on the crucial issue of discussing Mr. Berlusconi's suggestion that a massive infrastructure spending programme could be the key to tackle Europe's slowing economy and deflationary concerns.
Gian Marco Mensi, Italy
Not quite the words which any prime minister uses in public. He may think them, but not utter them. It rather makes one think that he is not fit to do the job.
Tony Marus, Italy
Clearly Mr Berlusconi lost control of his emotions. We as Europeans expect the EU president to act as a statesman. There is now a big question mark whether Mr Berlusconi can fit the bill.
I always believe in free speech, but this man has a responsibility to unite Europe. That's his job for God's sake for the next six months. What planet is he on?
Even if Mr. Berlusconi were provoked, do we expect our politicians to act like in this way?
Berlusconi is Europe's number one media manipulator. This week he's proving he's really good at it.
Pierre, Gozo, Malta
As an European citizen and a strong support of the idea of the European, I wonder when will we Europeans have the chance to decide for ourselves if a person like Mr. Berlusconi should stay where he is? We have institutional and economic issues that need to be defined during these 6 months; issue to do with my life, my taxes, my kids and the scenario is catastrophic. I feel myself as powerless as the millions of Americans who have not voted for Mr. Bush as their president.
Edward Sundays, Finland
Berlusconi seems to be an egomaniac with laughable judgement. God Help the EU during Italy's presidency. As a European living overseas, I am positively ashamed. What's he doing in politics? A very poor quality person with absolutely no reason to feel "superior" to anyone.
Neil Thomas, Hong Kong
The arrogant words used by Schulz about some of the democratically elected Italian Ministries is absolutely not acceptable to me. I never voted Berlusconi but I do want to say I've appreciated his will to defend our Nation against a brutality that should not be accepted in the European Parliament. I consider shameful and not at all democratic the anti-Italian attitude of the majority of the European press. Shame on you.
Paolo Rastelli, Italy
If Mr. Berlusconi had seen a certain episode of Fawlty Towers he would have known better than to say what he did.
That a prime minister of any country should make such remarks, and remain unapologetic, revolts me. Senator Trent Lott lost his powerful position in the US senate for saying far less. What a horrible thing is pride and ego when used as a barrier to apologize and to do the right thing. When you consider that Italy was a fascist nation in WWII, and was aligned with Germany across the board, its makes the statements even more offensive by the prime minister. Is PM Berlusconi suggesting that perhaps Italy was behaving more honourably than Germany in WWII?
Gary E. Kaminski, Buena Vista, PA USA
I don't want to say that I'm getting used to Mr. Berlusconi's awful manners and unacceptable political behaviour. But after 10 years of the 'the Berlusconi's show', what really matters to me and what should really matter to all those Italians who like me did not voted for him, is how badly the so called 'joke' will affect Italy's reputation abroad. I know that this might sound very naive but I still believe that sooner or later we'll be finally able to prove Italy is not just the amazing homeland of spaghetti and fashion.
Chiara Jaboli, Italy
If a rude joke from an Italian about a German is really the most important issue in Europe, what's there to complain about? How handy for all those other politicians to profile themselves now, and divert attention from the real, difficult issues. Truth is, it's slow news time and the media hate right wing figures anyway, so this was bound to happen sooner or later.
Eric Van Gerwen,
To those from Italy who are apologising for Berlusconi. Whom are you really apologising for? You voted him in.
I was wondering when someone was going to blame the United States for his remarks, and someone did.
It is refreshing to see such a well spread variety of opinions. It was depressing to see the UK media being so one sided. If he has to apologise, so should the German MEP as his remark was equally offensive and out of place. Also, Berlin has officially closed the matter, so why should the debate carry on? Or do the British media think they are the only one entitled to make endless jokes about the war?
Anna Porta, Italian living in London
This Franco-German dominated block of 'politically correct' bureaucrats must learn that their cosy little talking shop is now being wrested from their control. Real democracy is about real arguments and now that the EU is expanding to include more countries, European politics has to adapt to more forthright views from national political systems that are more truly democratic.
I think the Italian PM must be forced to apologise, or else Italy must relinquish the EU presidency. All the EU countries must put pressure on Berlusconi, not just Germany. In a civilised world, such insults cannot go unpunished.
Peter Kaluba, UK
The fact is that since 1994 Mr. Berlusconi has almost never participated into a real public debate: not in the Italian Parliament, where he normally doesn't go, or in the media, where he's always refused to confront his opponents. He's been on the Italian TV only when he could be interviewed by friendly journalists, no debate allowed. No wonder the first time he's confronted by a real, if unfriendly, question he freaks out
Thank goodness for Berlusconi - or anyone - for putting some life and colour into Euro-politics. There are always going to be powerful and manipulative political figures out there. Do we really prefer that they be faceless, characterless, backstage string-pullers? I'll take good old- fashioned up-front barnstormers any day! What's happened to us? Have we been so dumbed-down and desensitized that we prefer to be manipulated by clones
Angus White, USA/(Brit cit)
Unfortunately, I see this as just another indication that the European Union will never be one big happy family. There are too many bad feelings caused through history, and present decisions, between what is essentially a collection of different cultures.
David Clark, UK
I don't necessarily share his view but am comfortable hearing from someone who speaks his mind. It may herald a new era of honesty from politicians.
Andrew Hammond, UK
Important decisions are to be made during Italy's European presidency. Therefore the people in charge should not let their attention be shifted towards childish personal disputes. Mr Berlusconi made a joke (although a stupid one). Let's leave it like that and get ahead.
Mr Berlusconi has been elected and supported in Government by the (Neo-)Fascist Movement, the direct political heirs of Mussolini, Hitler's ally and role model. Moreover using these allies he has pushed laws through parliament avoiding him being jailed. He is really very well placed to make such remarks.
The problem is this person, the remarks are only a symptom of a generalised disease. The question is: Can Europe, the World work with leaders like that?
Kiko Wu, Taiwan
It is very interesting to see how much heat, but how little light, is being generated by Mr Berlusconi's attempt at "irony". I well remember the bumbling, but hardly fascist, Sergeant Schultz from the 60's television series, "Hogan's Heroes", and wonder if this had been the intended point of reference for Mr. Berlusconi's comment?
I am reminded of how former Australian Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies, was able to deal with all manner of hecklers, with barbed humour that achieved grudging admiration even from his severest critics. Famously, on one occasion he was faced with a shout from a middle-aged woman of "I wouldn't vote for you, even if you were the Archangel Gabriel!"
Quick as a flash came the reply "Madam, if I were the Archangel Gabriel, you would not be in my constituency!"
My, how politics has changed in the 21st century...
The way our prime minister replied to the German MEP doesn't represent a brand new thing for the Italians. In Italy we got used to his lack of respect towards those who don't agree with his ideas. But the behaviour he's shown yesterday constitutes an offence to a country that is still struggling with his past, as we are also as well. I just hope this event won't put us under a bad light, especially in this very moment, and that he will finally become aware of the sense of responsibility that he should keep with his role.
Gianluca Ruvo, Italy
Berlusconi should be credited for bringing European politics into the newsrooms of Britain. Can anyone remember the Greek Prime Ministers speech 6 months ago when he took up the help of the rotating presidency? Maybe this will make people think twice the next time they move to bin the letter that came in the post with their euro-election voting slip...
To Gareth, UK: Should we encourage our politicians into acting like bozos in order to get our attention then? By the way, the Greek presidency did an excellent job during a very hard time (i.e. Iraq war) in my opinion. But then again, the result was good, so why bother, right?
Aristotelis Oikonomou, Athens, Greece
Listening to Berlusconi yesterday was like listening to a spoiled child. The Italians elected him, but the European Parliament should not have to stoop to accommodate his childish behaviour. He should retract his statement, apologize, and promise never to address the Parliament again.
Conor Fleming, USA/Ireland
As an American, I am surprised by the reaction to Berlusconi's comments. I don't recall a similar reaction to the comments made by the German Justice Minister in September in which she compared Bush to Hitler. Is this just a case of selective outrage?
Chris, Kansas City, Missouri, USA
To: Chris, Kansas City Missouri,
The German politican who compared Bush to Hilter was forced to apologise and was also forced to resign!
The Germans are use to such silly comments, but this coming from a "politican" is new, and dangerous as this person is meant to represent all of Europe.
And blaming the "left" is also another example of how childish this man is!
By the way I am not European, not German but have been living here for over 24 years old I think my understanding of the feelings here is perhaps better than those involved.
I think that the incident between the German MEP and Mr. Berlusconi was highly inappropriate and deserved an immediate apology to Germany as a whole. To compare anyone, not just a German, to a Nazi concentration camp guard is absolutely horrendous! This form of juvenile behaviour in the European Union cannot and should not be tolerated. If the Italian population has little to no faith in the leadership of Berlusconi, how is the EU supposed to make any progress under his leadership? Perhaps the EU needs to figure out how to deal with leaders in which they have no confidence.
Daniel, United States of America
The gaffe really doesn't matter very much - a stupid thing to say but hardly important in the grand scheme of things. What this episode does highlight, however, is the undemocratic nature of government that we have in the EU. Berlusconi does not represent most Europeans - nor would any current head of state. If we are serious about democracy in Europe, we need to have an elected president - elected directly by all the citizens of Europe, not appointed by our respective governments.
As an Italian Born American I think the prime minister did right in giving the greens back what they were giving him. Why is it OK to call any Italian as being part of the "Mafia". But God forbid call a German a Nazi? It would seem that the EU is not a European organization where everyone is equal, but a German and French dominated organization who look down at the southern Europeans as less equal then them.
GessieM, USA & Italy
What never seems to be mentioned in news articles is before he made this stupid comment he was called "The Godfather" and "Attila the Hun" by members of Parliament. Where are the apologies for those comments?
Court Wilson, USA
Berlusconi may have acted a bit immaturely, but I don't see why this is such a scandal. The German MEP was desperately trying to provoke a negative reaction and got one. Instigators don't have the right to act indignant. Germans are overly sensitive to "Nazi" comments because most have chosen to deny that part of their history rather than confront it.
Jim, NJ, USA
This comment has nothing to do with being left-winged or right-winged. Berlusconi should have either ignored the comments made by Schulz saying that those were not appropriate or answered them correctly. This way he made a fool out of himself.
Pity I am not a director of some movie where he could play the role of Mussolini. Would suit him perfectly. (just being ironic here)
Berlusconi's simultaneous pursuit of private business and public representation will never be free of suspicion. Thanks only to a hastily granted immunity, was he even able to resume the presidency. It didn't take him 24 hours to publicly embarrass himself and damage his role. This man is a disgrace to Europe and should be removed from the presidency.
So, who is stepping up to apologize for the liberal German MEP who instigated all of this? No one is demanding an apology from him and he insulted Berlusconi. Fair is fair.
Quite apart from what one might personally think of Berlusconi and his political programme, his remarks at the opening at the EU parliament where quite indefensible from the point of view of common civility and political correctness. This is nothing new, given his behaviour in other situations in Italy, at least since '94. A head of government should set a better example.
The political left has always lacked a sense of humour. They feel they have the right to barrack, jeer, and bad-mouth anyone who dares to oppose their views, yet they become incensed when the tables are turned on them. Well done Mr Berlusconi!
Norman Dawes, UK
This is an apology for the shameless behaviour of the so called "president" of our very badly represented country, Italy. I am a business traveller who feels extremely embarrassed by what happened at the opening of the new EU presidency term. There are many Italians who feel the same way. I would remind all the external watchers, that this president has been voted in thanks to his media power and the brainwashing his TV and media empire have on the population.
Well, the good news is we are not on his side, and it will show clearly at the next elections. In the meantime, the hope is to have him removed instantly and have him face the justice and go to jail as he deserves.
To Apologies, Italy: I don't feel ashamed of what Berlusconi said. And don't apologise for me. And, why has nobody asked for whoever called him "Godfather" to apologise?
Giulio Troccoli, Italy
Why is no one up in arms about the Mafia-tinged barbs thrown at Berlusconi by the Greens that precipitated this incident? Seems to me that the Left can malign whomever it chooses, but then can take offence when they're in the firing line. Fact of the matter is that Berlusconi does not tow the Franco-German line on "Europe", and in true "liberal" fashion, those who do not agree with that are demonized. Let's hope Italy's turn at the helm will bring some balance to the EU. It is, after all, the European Union, not the France-Germany-Left Union.
David, Washington, DC, USA
Twenty four hours is long time in politics. While Mr. Berlusconi's remarks will go down in history there are unlikely to have a lasting effect on Italy's presidency of the EU. The diplomats will do what they paid to do and smooth over the cracks. As Herr Schultz and his green MEP colleagues slip back into their deserved obscurity, we can look forward to a certainly less than dull EU Presidency with Mr. Berlusconi at the helm. We should also not forget that Mr. Berlusconi was democratically elected by a free people, who will have the opportunity before long to confirm or deny Mr Berlusconi's mandate.
Berlusconi did not compare this MEP to a Nazi concentration camp commander. He merely stated that said MEP would be suitable to play the role of one in a film. Not the same thing. This is just trouble-making by a bunch of socialists.
I agree that Berlusconi's potency as EU president is limited - as impotent as any EU rotational president. However, the Presidency plays an important role as the representative of the EU worldwide, and any person holding that office should be aware of the spotlight on them and curb any inclinations they get to make gaffes that may not be appreciated by others.
Berlusconi should be wary of antagonising any of the three biggest and most powerful EU member states, namely Germany, France and the UK.
One would think that as a seasoned politician he would be capable of handling a heckle or two better than this.
Before jumping on the bandwagon of media outrage at Mr. Berlusconi's remarks at the European Parliament, the BBC should also consider whether his adversaries' behaviour was appropriate. Entering the parliament's theatre with placards referring to Italian judicial cases (of no European interest at all) and the issue of conflict of interest (another 100% national matter)as well as heckling Mr. Berlusconi as if he were the dictator of a banana republic (despite his numerous shortcomings, he isn't) hardly qualifies as proper parliamentary conduct.
Imagine if Mr. Blair were to be welcome to the European Parliament by placards and hecklers denouncing the Bristol flats' transaction, or his master spin doctor's shenanigans.
In our despair, my friends and I always remind ourselves that the only thing that will save us from Berlusconi is Europe (and perhaps Prodi!). I rejoice that the spotlight begins to illuminate the real man.
John DeFayette, Italy
Mr Berlusconi is pro-America to a fault and he seems to be bent on impressing the US, even at the expense of EU foreign policy. Mr Berlusconi has started his presidency on a controversial and outrageous note and I do not expect him to achieve anything out of the ordinary. The EU rotation system for the presidency is an aberration - a system that automatically qualifies and installs people with utter disregard for the rule of law and democratic values as EU president just by virtue of being a head of state.
Since when did democratically elected leaders become unfit to speak in a European parliament? Are only socialist and communist leaders allowed now in the European parliament?
Message for Steve, UK:
Who said he can't speak? He spoke an awful lot yesterday... But you must admit, there are diplomatic rules and basic common sense that say that a leader that's behaved less than perfectly (what do you call approving laws to get yourself off the hook for something you did when you weren't a politician?) should think about his words carefully when speaking in certain circles.
I think it is hilarious to see the PC brigade rushing to condemn this poor man. The entire European Union political scene is no more than an artifice and a sham, trying to cover up centuries of differences with a veneer of smooth, and frequently anodyne, political sophistry. Berlusconi may have offended some, but isn't it refreshing to find a politician who speaks from his heart, for a change, however unpalatable that may be?
Wyatt Bell, Switzerland
I'm an ex-pat living in Southern Italy; the people in this area are not supporters of Berlusconi. He represents everything that is wrong about proportional representation. The E.U should remove him from the six month presidency before he does further damage.
As a citizen of a member state of the European Union I find the behaviour of this man a total disgrace and against everything the EU would like to stand for. I do not want to be represented by such a person, whatever happens to be his name or title.
Hanneke Kouwenberg, Netherlands
With all the liberal left wingers damaging Europe hopefully right wingers like Berlusconi can help us find a sensible middle ground.
Hugh, Great Britain
In the past few years Berlusconi and his friends have humiliated and offended all the hard working and honest Italians as well as the democratic institutions of the country. Now he is trying to export his political model to Europe.
Fabio Zuccotto, UK
Of course Mr Berlusconi's comments are appalling. And I don't think there is any doubt that the Italian presidency of the EU will not be successful. However, the one question I've not seen answered in the media is: What can the EU parliament do to vote this guy out? In a civilised country such a remark by a political leader would lead to a vote of no confidence immediately!! Why not in the EU parliament? Get him out!!!
Maurits van den Berg, UK
With Berlusconi's debut speech to the European Parliament, Europeans have just started to experience the arrogance, the megalomania and the bad taste of a leader whose only action in the Italian political scene has been to make laws tailored to protect himself from justice. As a moderate Italian voter and citizen I just hope that after Berlusconi's European presidency I won't feel even more ashamed than I am right now for being represented by him.
If any man will change the EU to serve big business and not EU citizens it's Berlusconi.
They say no smoke without fire. Where this guy is concerned you can't see for miles because there's so much stuff smouldering. The Italians, perhaps crazily, gave him the benefit of the doubt, but since elected he has made no effort to enact reforms promised, distance himself from his business (conflicts of) interests, and has proposed judicial legislation that has just happened to remove much legal pressure on himself. Yes, it is a joke having him as a nominal head of Europe, but it only highlights what a farce the 6 month, pork for everyone, presidency is.
Why is it that whenever a politician wants to insult his opposition, he resorts to branding them a 'Nazi'? If only modern politicians realised how trivial politics is now in comparison to those dreadful days of war.
James Boulter, UK
The EU presidency is just honorary position, it has no real authority. The EU takes years to make any decision, not months. The real decisions are made by unelected faceless individuals with fat salaries and expense accounts living in Brussels. As for Berlusconi, are there any straight politicians? If so please stand up.
Another pointless politician on the EU gravy train. It won't make any difference and will just continue the waste and corruption that is the EU.
I would like to say to the people of Europe and in particular to the Germans "I am sorry".
Europe needs ONE presidency, not this 6 month rotation. Berlusconi leading Europe for 6 months is gonna be a scary ride...
Berlusconi is just what we need to shake Europe up.
This man is a clown and a disgrace to my country.
A six month rotation of the presidency is a good thing: Long enough for the good to make a mark but short enough to prevent the bad from gaining a foothold. Aren't you glad it's not for five years and who's to say he wouldn't have gained the popular vote throughout the EU when the vast majority of the population of the EU will know virtually nothing about most of the candidates? Six months is just about right and I wish him well for the sake of all of us.
John M, LyneMeads, UK
Berlusconi will make little difference. The rotating EU presidency has become relatively ceremonial. And despite the relative youth of EU institutions, they have already turned themselves into bureaucratic dinosaurs with no power other than pandering to low hanging fruit agenda, and to French agriculture. I hope an 'Atlanticisist' EU leader might bring a new spark to the European political dynamic, refreshing from the downtrodden and uninspired continental agenda.
Brad Jonsson, USA/Sweden
Berlusconi's right-wing totalitarian politics have no place in any modern democracy and definitely not in the EU, especially now as we are trying to expand the Union as well as finalising our first constitution. Furthermore Berlusconi should remember that although Rumsfeld did not name Italy as a member of "old Europe" - Italy is definitely not a member of Rumsfeld's "new Europe" and therefore he should be careful in his attempt to restore relations with the US.
Perhaps this will be the chance for Europe and the world to understand who Berlusconi actually is. Here in Italy, since Berlusconi came to power, we have seen an Americanisation of the system so the priority given to EU-US relations doesn't surprise me.
In Italy many people say that Berlusconi is a person more interested in form, than in substance. However, he is also a person who achieved quite a lot in his life. A practical person. Over the years he created, established, founded and built, all during his very successful business career. We are hopeful that, if his envious, underachieving and bitter enemies in Italy and abroad leave him alone, he shall lead Italy to a successful EU presidency. Please let the man do his job! He will make a positive difference.
Bruno Condotta, Italy
It will be interesting to see if this Italian EU President can make any progress in restoring relations with the US. It will also be interesting to see how the EU parliament treats him. I am especially keen to see if France gives Berlusconi a hard time or in some way try to foil his efforts with the US.
The fact that Europe is about to get, in my view, a
clueless president forced onto her by an archaic
rotation system shows how ineffective,
undemocratic and dangerous the intergovernmental
approach is. Let the Europeans vote for their president:
it's the only way to avoid such embarrassment.
One may ask how come the Italians voted that man into
power in the first place. Well, he controls virtually all
nationwide media. He couldn't do the trick in a
multi-lingual Europe with sufficient media competition.
Silvio Sandrone, EU, Italy
Mr Berlusconi can be expected to make a contribution no better or worse than his predecessors. However, I would be extremely surprised were France to question his suitability for the job given the fact that their own president has to date refused to answer questions of alleged corruption while mayor of Paris.
Italy will not make a difference. The EU is a dream put together by dreamers. To make the EU anywhere near as functional or as powerful as the US EU nations will have to do a lot of growing up first. Just being a country or a culture for several centuries doe not eliminate the reality that centuries of war and hatred and bigotry still divide Europe.
Gary Alles, US
The only reason Berlusconi is hated by the European press is because they are frustrated that a conservative prime minister is popular. The EU president does not do a whole lot to begin with, but if anyone has the guts to get things done it will be Berlusconi, that is if he even gets a fair shot.
Court Wilson, USA
The idea of Berlusconi as EU President is a joke. This is a man, remember, who commands a virtual media monopoly in his native country. Also let's not forget that his comments about Islam being uncivilised.
Munzar Sharif, UK
Another six months another presidency. A whole lot of talk a whole lot of nothing. Business as usual.
Willy, NYC, USA
Suspicions and prejudice against the Italians are bountiful. I lived in Britain for 19 years and I felt it, every day, from my colleagues at work. It is interesting that the French are making so much fuss about the suitability of Berlusconi as president, what about Chirac's own failings. German should not judge other people, they are not the best in the world either. But, should Berlusconi not be judged instead on the job done as president of the EU after six months?
Antonio Lito, Italy
A country whose leadership stands up for its own people instead of pretending to be there for the good of everyone will make a much needed refreshing change.
John, Australia (ex UK)
The EU and its member nations have so many layers of bureaucracy that one man cannot possibly make a difference. Even if he could, the rotating nature of the EU Presidency will remove Mr Berlusconi before he does too much damage.
Jason Konik, USA/Poland
I am very interested in seeing how Mr Berlusconi fares. He is already being criticised before he has even begun, and surprise surprise, it's because he has a different view about certain things than France or Germany ie his relations with the US for one. Yet again, anybody who has a different opinion from the French and Germans is deemed unsuitable and subjected to a hate campaign to try and turn people's opinion away from him and back to what the French and Germans deem suitable ie what is best for them and not the EU as a whole. Stick to your guns Mr Berlusconi and don't be put off from what you think by the selfish acts of others.
If ever there was an indictment of the EU's so-called "government", this is it. In its own way, it's just as much a joke as Libya presiding over the UN Human Rights committee.
In spite of muzzled, domestic legal problems, the EU should look forward to Berlusconi's presidency with greater optimism and patience. With EU-US relations polarized, if not severely damaged, over the Iraq war, a business-savvy leader with credibility in Washington and clout in media, business and political dynamics in Europe is needed. Mr Berlusconi fits that profile. Again, that one of the top EU leaders is also an Italian boosts his clout and other positive expectations.
Just the fact that PM Berlusconi has been given the chance to make a difference has shown what an effective body the EU will become. Once again Europe has taken the lead in world government and the US has balked at the challenge to its self-imposed dominance in world affairs. I think Mr. Berlusconi should continue to work on the matters important to the EU and not pander to the USA's childish reluctance to agree to disagree. I applaud everything the EU has accomplished so far. I look forward to a better future this great institution is forging.
Joe B, USA
I'm glad it's his turn, especially because of his commitment to restore relations between Europe and the US.
What I've never understood about France's desire to turn Europe into an opposing power for the US is that that would mean we don't share the same goals and ambitions. I would like to think that it isn't so.
Lets face it - the whole institution of Continental European Politics has been corrupt for decades. It is not that long ago that the European Commission was forced to resign en-masse because of corruption, and in my view, high level political corruption has been endemic in Italy, France Germany and Eire (to name but four countries) for years. Much of the suspicion surrounding the EU in the UK stems from suspicion of corruption and non-accountability. Italy's ascendancy to EU Presidency with Berlusconi at its head will only exacerbate this.
It must not be ignored that Italy Prime Minister is elected by the majority of Italian public and if we believe democracy, we should respect that decision. Additionally, only one point of view such as Franco-German perspective is not always proved to be true and the other opinions must be represented.
For heaven's sake. No European presidency ever, has made any difference.