Maybe No Dolce Estate for Gerhard Schröder

There has been further fallout from the Berlusconi-in-Strasbourg affair, as reported by those sharp-eyed newshawks at the Flemish newspaper Gazet van Antwerpen. You’ll recall that the remarks Italian prime minster Silvio Berlusconi addressed to German MEP Martin Schulz last week – something to the effect that he recommended Herr Schulz for a part in a new movie about a Nazi concentration camp – did much to sour current diplomatic relations between Italy and Germany.

Now those relations have taken another turn for the worse, to the degree that Italy may wind up losing one of its most famous guest-tourists this summer – namely Gerhard Schröder himself, who always goes to Tuscany summers when he can get away from the hustle-and-bustle of trying to put the German Federal Republic back on its feet economically.

The immediate cause here is nothing that Berlusconi has subsequently said, but rather Stefano Stefani, who is currently Italian state secretary for economic affairs – a portfolio which includes tourism. He is said to let an Italian newspaper know of his opinion that all Germans are “boring, blonde, and super-nationalist.” In the summer they come down to occupy Italian beaches en masse, he complained (?), “creating all sorts of trouble.”

In reaction, Chancellor Schröder’s spokesman has let it be known that some sort of consequences are expected against Signor Stefani for this rude outburst. Otherwise, the Bundeskanzler will simply find some other place to go off to on vacation this summer. (Relations with France seem rather good these days – how about there? Miami Beach, though, is probably out.)

To my view, Stefani’s comments are rather bizarre. Yes, many Germans are blonde, maybe some of them are boring, but ever since World War II Germans have also been known as among the least nationalist of Europe’s peoples – for reasons I don’t think we really need to figure out. And as for the accusation that they create “all sorts of trouble,” come now, the British are much, much better at that sort of thing.

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