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Germany

Schröder and Berlusconi Lost in Translation

German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi have had a number of misunderstandings over the years. But they normally aren't chalked up to faulty translation equipment.

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At it again

According to the Reuters news agency, when Schröder's earpiece failed at joint press conference after a summit in Rome on Wednesday, Berlusconi looked at it and declared: "It's a German machine."

Schröder, who has clashed with Berlusconi on many political issues, not least Iraq, looked at the brand name, Philips, smiled back at his host and replied: "Dutch".

The bit reveals that despite all the talk of common currency, treaties and policy, European Union leaders are not above a bit of nationalistic jibing. Especially these two.

The German-Italian relationship has undergone a rocky period in recent years. After Berlusconi suggested a German member of the European Parliament was acting like a concentration camp guard, Schröder broke off his annual Italian vacation.

After the snafu, both leaders then went on to say relations between two of Europe's biggest countries were excellent, despite opposed positions on the war in Iraq and on the future reform of the United Nations. Rome opposes Berlin's bid for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council for fear of losing relative influence in Europe.