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Europe

German-Italian Storm Calms as Minister Resigns

The diplomatic row between Italy and Germany appears to have come to a close with the resignation of an offending Italian deputy minister of tourism.

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"La Dolce Vita" once again

An embarassing diplomatic feud between Italy and Germany could come to an end after Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi removed an offending minister.

The deputy minister for tourism Stefano Stefani fell into hot water after writing that German tourists were "hypernationalistic blond, beach invaders." The comments, written in an Italian newspaper, followed comments by Berlusconi comparing a German European parliamentarian to a Nazi camp concentration guard.

The double diplomatic faux pas led German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder to cancel his annual trip to Rimini this week and sparked a letter-writing campaign by Germany's national tabloid Bild.

"Ich liebe Deutschland"

On Saturday, Bild claimed victory.

"Si! The storm of protest from Bild readers was successful!" it

Staatssekretär im italienischen Wirtschaftsministerium Stefano Stefani

Stefano Stefani, president of the Northern League party, delivers his speech on the opening day of the Lega Nord congress in Milan, Italy, Friday, March 1, 2002. German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder is threatening to cancel his planned summer vacation in Italy after Stefani branded Germans as stereotyped blondes with a hyper-nationalist pride, a Berlin daily reported Monday, July 7, 2003. (AP Photo/Giuseppe Aresu)

wrote in a front page article, below a massive photo and headline about Stefani (photo). "Yesterday Stefani resigned and begged us for forgiveness: 'I love Germany.' "

In his resignation statement, Stefani said that his parts of his article had led to tension in the German-Italian relationship. He said he only meant to criticize those who consistently put Italy in a bad light.

"If many Germans were insulted by my words then I want to ask for forgiveness," Stefani wrote in a statement co-signed by a Bild reporter.

End to a bad start?

The resignation might calm what has been a tumultous start to Italy's six-month presidency of the European Union. On only the second day, Berlusconi compared a German member of the European parliament to a Nazi concentration camp guard, sparking international outrage and a war of words between the two nations.

In the presence of reporters late Friday night, Berlusconi appeared happy at the resignation of Stefani and said Schröder was planning to come back to Italy next year.

"Schroeder doesn't want to re-change his plans (now that
Stefani has resigned) for reasons of family stability but next
year the chancellor will spend his holidays in Italy," Berlusconi said.

"Reconciliation party" already planned

German politicians greeted Stefani's resignation. The deputy spokesman for the Social Democratic Party in parliament, Michael Müller, said he hopes future German-Italian relations will be clear of such nationalism.

"We hope that Italy can clean itself of these nationalistic tendencies through elections, so that something like this doesn't happen between these two important countries in the future," Müller said.

After fanning the flames of German-Italian resentiment for two weeks, Bild played the peacemaker on Saturday. Below their story on Stefani's resignation, Bild ran a list of "55 reasons we still love Italy." Inside the paper, readers could register to win a "Reconciliation Party" to Italy and brush up on their Italian with a list of useful Italian phrases.

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