Minister frets for Germany's esteem after 'clown' debacle

3rd March 2013, Comments 0 comments

Germany's foreign minister raised concerns Sunday for his country's "good standing" in Europe after a leading opposition politician called two candidates in Italy's elections "clowns".

Guido Westerwelle said in a written statement that he appealed for "Germany's good standing in Europe" not to be damaged "by derogatory comments just to make a party political mark at home".

Italian President Giorgio Napolitano cancelled planned talks with Peer Steinbrueck, who is bidding to unseat Chancellor Angela Merkel in September's general elections, last week after his remark.

Commenting on the inconclusive vote in Italy, Steinbrueck lamented that "two clowns" had won referring to Beppe Grillo, a former comedian whose anti-establishment party unexpectedly captured a quarter of the vote, and former premier Silvio Berlusconi.

"If we Germans want to negotiate successfully in Europe, we need mutual respect," Westerwelle added.

Grillo told Germany's Bild am Sonntag newspaper that he personally had not felt insulted. "Steinbrueck didn't insult us two, but all Italians," he said accusing him of having behaved "like a boor".

The paper quoted Steinbrueck, a former finance minister, as saying "what's said is said" but adding: "Most people say to me that it probably must still be allowed to vocalise what the majority of the population thinks."

© 2013 AFP

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