The German Chancellor has cancelled his holiday to Italy after an Italian minister called German tourists "hyper-nationalist, arrogant blondes" and rowdy beach invaders.
Italian junior minister Stefano Stefani of the far-right Northern League party refuses to apologise for his words.
Last week a German MEP from a party banned by Hitler was likened to a Nazi prison guard by Italian Prime Minister Berlusconi.
Is it a sensible move for Mr Schroeder to call off his holiday? Will it provoke an apology or make the hostilities worse? What should the Italian prime minister's reaction be? What's the most mature solution to the fall out?
This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
The following comments reflect the balance of views we have received:
I think most Germans are sick to death of having the war dragged up at every available opportunity. It's the easiest way to insult us, and Berlusconi's remarks show a certain desperation as if he thinks attacking other nations is the best way to distract from his own failings. But what else could Schröeder have done? If he did take his holiday as planned, he would have been labelled a wimp for not taking a stance. At least the North Sea coast will be much more comfortable than a heat wave in Tuscany...
Mr Schroeder has squandered a first class opportunity to take the moral high ground. Instead he has reacted in a rather petty manner which will likely only prolong the issue.
One less towel on a deckchair at the poolside!
As someone who lives in an area of Italy where the majority of foreign visitors are German tourists, I am sorry to say Stefano Stefani has got a point. With many notable exceptions, the majority of German tourists here are badly behaved, boorish and totally without a vestige of humour. By and large they are detested by the locals.
What a superb Italian government! I'm afraid it's par for the course for those of us living here. Nice to see the rest of the world taking notice. Berlusconi's arrogance one week; the Northern League's ill-informed rubbish the next.
Given the fact that Germany has dealt with its history and Italy has not, Berlusconi's so-called joke was just too much and after Stefani's remarks it is quite understandable if German people do not wish to spend their holidays in Italy.
If high-placed officials in a country, one of them directly connected to tourism, make insulting remarks about other countries and refuse to apologise, what are we expected to conclude? If I were treated like that in a shop by the management then I certainly wouldn't buy in that shop, and would advise anyone who asked me not to shop there. The impression given was certainly "Italy does not want German tourists"; if that's what they want, give it to them. If the Italian people have a problem with that then it's up to them to sort out their own government.
Chris C, England
Chancellor Schroeder's decision to cancel his holiday was appropriate; the anti-German remarks were not made by private Italian citizens but by the Prime Minister and a junior minister. As usual in political rows, it will be the average citizen who suffers, in this case those Italians connected with the tourist industry.
Jeffrey Seamans, U.S.A.
Let's cancel everyone's holidays to everywhere - someone there has surely insulted someone, somewhere else, at some time.
Relton Cory, Denmark
Chancellor Schroeder was wrong to call off his tour. It is a pity that a leader of an EU member state, should capitalise on petty issues for political gains.
Paul Buyerah, Uganda
Well, quite amusing that an argument between a handful of politicians still results in remarks about 'The Germans' and ' The Italians'. The remarks in questions were made by two Italians, to which one German responded by cancelling his holiday. Please stop this habit of generalising the situation. This attitude doesn't get anyone very far. Anyway, I don't believe that a majority in Italy agrees with the remarks of Berlusconi and Stefani. Most Germans would probably have shrug off these remarks as immature if they are not reminded every day by someone about what happened 60 years ago. Even the funniest joke leaves a sour taste after a while.
It's not so much the theatrics that concern me, but the fact that Chancellor Schroeder should have acted like a statesman, even in the face of shoddy behaviour on the part of his Italian counterpart. I believe that heads of state should deliberate more before they act, and then act with a greater sense of duty with respect to the European community at large.
Why on earth should anyone have to apologise for speaking anything? I thought we had free speech in Europe?
The Germans soul-searching over this decision has only made me respect them more. Of course Schroeder was right; these were terrible insults. Why should the Germans have to accept this? They have proved over many years that they are a modern nation that generally abhors their Nazi past.
I think Schroeder was absolutely right. Stefani should be sacked and so should Berlusconi! Let's just hope the majority of Italians aren't naive enough to vote for him again. Not that the opposition's much better. Why didn't they pass conflict-of-interest legislation to prevent him getting back in office a second time anyway?
I fully support Mr Schroeder's decision. As a head of state, I wouldn't go to a country whose head of state insults my people. The Italian government should apologise
Munawar Mahmood, Pakistan
And you wonder why Brits are wary about the whole European situation! Imagine if an Italian, German or French MEP had said something about British tourists being nationalistic, stingy and quiet! Mr Blair would have had to cancel his holiday to Europe and gone to the States instead!
Christian Locke, UK
hancellor Schroeder was absolutely right to cancel his holiday. It doesn't take a rocket-scientist to figure out that you don't joke about that period in German history, especially if you yourself are heading a coalition with ultra-nationalists.
Marcel, the Netherlands
Herr Schroeder has clearly failed to learn anything from the EU sanctions against Austria, to which he once so willingly subscribed. Boycotting a country punishes normal decent citizens and strengthens those against whom their actions are targeted.
William Richardson, Austria
Nice to see that petty arguments and squabbling in the EU doesn't always have to involve the UK. I find the whole thing highly amusing.
Mr. Berlusconi's remark was very insulting and inappropriate. Mr. Stefani's remark was an outburst of ignorance and vulgarity. Both show the essence of this government. Thank God, not the whole country is represented by these people. Come Mr. Schroeder, we can be civilized and very welcoming!
It was the right thing to do. Why does everyone expect the Germans to just swallow every offence when the Italians come up with new insults in one week? Calling Germans "hyper nationalist" is outright stupid. I don't know any other country whose people are less nationalistic than present day Germans.
I'd be more impressed if Tony Blair and other European leaders cancelled their holidays in Italy, too. That might help Berlusconi et al to concentrate.
With this latest comment, plus Berlusconi's gaffe, and the disgraceful reputation of Italian football fans, Italy risks developing a new racial stereotype of its own: as the most racist country in Europe. Quite ironic really, Germany has worked hard to rid itself of this undesirable reputation for decades.
Jon E, France
It is unfortunate that Mr. Schroeder didn't rise above the occasion, and treat Mr. Stefani's remarks as they should have been treated: by ignoring them. After all, if we start talking about tourist stereotypes, there are other European countries that would beat Germans to the prize of "the most rowdy beach invaders".
A Martinez, Germany
I have always held a stereotyped view that Germans had no sense of humour. It's good to know that I wasn't wrong.
It's rather telling that English participants of this discussion snipe and make fun of other nations. This insensitivity is misplaced when talking about top politicians. And if English people think that this sort of behaviour is a joke, then I pity you for your English sense of humour.
Volker, England (ex Germany)
I think Mr Schroeder's cancellation of his trip is not a private act. We in Germany would get rid of any politician who made such stereotyped comments. Hanover is not as boring as some might think. Ciao Bella Italia.
Stefan, Muenchen, Germany
I wish these two would sort out their petty differences. The Italian ministers should stop winding up the Germans and the Germans should relax.
Definitely right to cancel. However Berlusconi does not represent most Italians and the sooner they show this by voting him out the better.
A Rana, London, UK
No doubt Schroeder overreacts. Instead, he should shrug off these silly remarks and carry on business as usual.
It's not immature to cancel the trip, quite the opposite. It's a responsible way to show that these kind of comments aren't acceptable from government officials.
He only did it to try and improve his and his party's poll ratings. Will he get his money back or are we the taxpayer stuck with the bill again?
If they can't play together nicely, the pair of them should be grounded and sent to their bedrooms until they learn how to behave. The conduct of one and the reaction of the other are utterly pathetic.
C. Hunter, England
The fact that the comments were made so close to each other, that they came from political leaders and that no subsequent apologies were issued, left Schroeder with little choice. I would have cancelled as well. Why would anyone want to travel to a country that insults their nationality? Besides, Greece is nicer than Italy and has way better beaches than Skegness. Where the heck is Skegness anyway?
Steve, Greek in Canada
What is it with these people? They are supposed to be representatives, yet they are acting like 'divas'. Europe is in need of proper leaders.
Now that these comments are out in the open people might realise how stupid they are. And for the sake of the Italians who realise this, the Chancellor would have done better not to cancel. Every nation has an abundance of great and good people; we should pander to them to create a better world.
Michael Harris, Cork, Ireland
The remarks from members of the Italian government show that a united Europe is far away. Having respect for other cultures is one of the most important elements for a United Europe. I think Mr. Schroder has to go to Italy and show that he is not a hyper-nationalist German, but someone who is interested in other cultures.
Almelo - Netherlands
Before I visited Italy for the first time as a second-generation Italian-American, I discovered, quite by accident that a certain German fellow by the name of Goethe had invented the modern mystique of Italy, and thereby -- maybe with a bit of extra help from John Ruskin's "The Stones of Venice" - the modern Italian tourist trade.
Good for Schroede. And Messrs. Stefani and Burlusconi should hold their tongues - Italy, a land where cynicism and corruption abound, could become as unfashionable a tourist stop as the State of Texas has become ever since George Bush became U.S. president.
L. Massano, U.S.A.
I wish Mr Berlusconi (I didn't vote for him!) would apologise for the damage he is making to my beautiful country! Wish also this would be his last government!
About the cancelled holiday of Mr Schroeder... he knows what he is losing... doesn't he?
Luca D'Agostino, Rome - Italy
Cancelling the trip is the worse thing that Schroeder could have done. He's just lowering himself to the same level as the fool that made the original remark.
David Phelps, USA
Mr Schroeder, it was a j-o-k-e.
Eccles, UK thinks the remarks where only a joke. This is the 21st century and comments like this are offensive. Mr Schroeder made the right choice in cancelling his holiday to Italy. Next winter I shall be taking my skiing holiday in Germany instead of Italy.
Sunjay Bhogal, London, UK
Since Berlusconi did not even offer a delayed apology, Mr Schroeder's behaviour is more than justified. Berlusconi should also sack his minister for offending in such a generalised and incomprehensible manner an entire nation. But I am sure that he won't - his minister is still there because he shares Berlusconi's sense of humour.
Minister Stefano only voices the generally held observation of thousands of British holiday makers. The Germans are too sensitive and could do well to hone their image. Perhaps Mr Schroeder does well to stay at home.
Chancellor Schroeder shouldn't have cancelled his trip. If he had gone to Italy, he would have found that most ordinary Italians have nothing against Germany and would not think to make comments similar to those made by Stefani, or even those made by Berlusconi. It is those very same ordinary Italians that are going to be made to pay economically from the loss of German tourists.
The Chancellor's visit would have proved that the two countries normally enjoy good relations, and that this row is just a pointless, unnecessary fluke.
Stefani should also resign as tourist minister. How is deliberately offending one of the country's largest and most important groups of visitors promoting tourism in Italy?
Italian in the US
I think Mr Schroeder should spend his holiday in Skegness... it's better than Italy and has a nice beach.
What a sad lot. I'm cancelling my trip to Skegness, in case he goes there instead!
The reactions of both the Italians and the Germans speaks to the fact that all of the comments hit a nerve. That Schroeder cancelled his plans gives a great deal of power to a JUNIOR minister. It is really quite amusing. Who would have guessed that these big men could act like such simpletons?
Porrello, Leonard, US
Who cares? The insult was absurd given the historical context.
Jonathan Hill, England
I believe that Mr Schroeder is a decent man, and so are most of his fellow countrymen. The ‘sense of humour’ at their expense, as displayed by two of the highest Italian government officials, is completely out of order, and the German Chancellor, and all other Germans are absolutely right to stay away. They are more than welcome in the UK as far as I am concerned!
I totally agree with Mr Schroeder's decision, since the remarks of both Berlusconi and Stefani are totally unacceptable in today's tolerant Europe. The racist comments are hypocritical especially Mr Berlusconi's and instead of helping bring Europe together through the adoption of a Constitution, they break the trust and hope that have been built for the past half a decade from the treaty of Rome to the treaty of Nice... This is a sad period for Europe, but we should not let racist comments send us back to the dark ages...
Mohamed, Paris, France
The Nazi comment was genuinely insulting, but the tourism comment shouldn't have been taken so seriously.
The Germans are behaving like little schoolboys and Berlusconi is being like a little troublemaker. All of them need to grow up, stop throwing pathetic little insults at each other and cancelling holidays. If they can't behave and act their age, disband the European Parliament now and give us all a refund.
Yes he should... after all the misdemeanours of Italian politicians, why should he promote Italian tourism by visiting Italy? Germans should boycott their holidays to Italy.
Despite the fact both Stefani and Berlusconi should apologise for their childish and unworthy remarks, I think it's time for Schröeder to finally get some backbone and stand above such things instead of acting like a prima donna.
The most mature solution would be for all these overgrown children to quit their jobs and let adults run things. And they wonder why people are not convinced about the EU.
It's ridiculous to cancel your holiday simply because of such a remark. What an immature and impulsive reaction to a negligible statement. Will it make things worse or provoke an apology? Of course not. What would the mature solution have been? Ignore it and enjoy the vacation!