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[Portrait] Berlusconi, this atypical European

(B2) The death of Silvio Berlusconi on Monday (June 12) marks the end of an era in Italian political life, made up of escapades and legal disputes, but also a part of European life. Sometimes in spite of himself. Some memories of his visits to Brussels and Strasbourg

Putting Martin Schulz into orbit

When he arrives this July 2 in the Strasbourg hemicycle, to present the priorities of the Italian presidency of 2003, Silvio Berlusconi is in good shape. He exults, taking Europe's destiny into his own hands. But faced with attacks from several MEPs – the British liberal Graham Watson, the Italian ecologist Monica Frassoni and the German social democrat Martin Schulz, he said to the latter: “II know that a producer in Italy is preparing a film about Nazi concentration camps. I will nominate you for the role of kapo. » And to add, all smiles in the middle of some applause, and an awkward silence: “ You will be perfect ! ".

His deputy prime minister Gianfranco Fini, head of the Allianza Nationale, sitting next to him, frowns. He perceived the chief's immense blunder. But a few minutes later, Berlusconi persists and signs. “ Mr Schulz seriously offended me on a personal level, by gesticulating and using a tone which is unacceptable in a Parliament like this. I expressed myself in a tone of irony. If you can't understand the irony, I'm sorry. But I do not take back what I said, ironically, if Mr. Schulz does not take back the personal insults he directed at me. »

This will trigger a crisis between Rome and Berlin. German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder will demand an apology from Italy. Incidentally, this launched the career of the SPD MEP, until then completely unknown. He would take the helm of the European Parliament ten years later, for two consecutive mandates of two and a half years, from 2012 to 2017.

The tangle of the European Constitution

The work carried out under the Italian presidency in 2003 to achieve the European Constitution had made the most placid diplomats tear their hair out. The director of Forza Italia was in fact conducting confessional interviews with various European leaders. But sometimes without an assistant to take notes and record the content of the conversations, promising anything and everything. It then took a few weeks for the next Irish presidency to untangle the tangle and get the negotiation back on its feet.

One constant: European defense

In matters of European defense, a point often forgotten in the biography of the leader of Forza Italia, he was a supporter of a European army. And consistently.

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde)

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).