Italy’s Silvio Berlusconi has assumed the rotating presidency of the European Union. His tenure got off to a rocky start yesterday, when he was jeered and harassed by left-wing members of the European Parliament. Goaded by a German who objected to the fact that Berlusconi’s background is in business (he alleged a “conflict of interest” between Berlusconi’s media holdings and his political career), Berlusconi responded: “Mr. Schulz, I know there is in Italy a man producing a film on the Nazi concentration camps. I would like to suggest you for the role of leader. You’d be perfect.”
Berlusconi was hardly the first person to be exasperated by the contrast between the self-righteousness of contemporary Germans and their country’s checkered past, but his rejoinder was considered out of bounds and he was jeered by the Parliament’s leftists. What the leftists really object to, of course, is not Berlusconi’s purported “corruption”–European politicians of all stripes have busily lined their own pockets for generations–but rather the fact that he is a conservative.
Ironically, Parliamentary Greens waved banners opposing Berlusconi prior to his speech, some of which said “No Godfathers.” The difference between this ethnic jibe and Berlusconi’s comment to the German representative is not obvious. Those who want Europe to be a real country have a long way to go.
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