EU Parliament Chief Under Fire Again After Mussolini Comments

(Bloomberg) -- A month after starting a row by referring to parts of Croatia and Slovenia as Italian, the president of the European Parliament was forced to apologize for positive comments he made about Benito Mussolini.

The fascist leader “did good things” for Italy, Antonio Tajani said on a popular radio program, Italian media reported on Thursday. He contended that Mussolini contributed in building infrastructure and keeping the country safe “until he declared war against the whole world following Hitler.”

EU Parliament Chief Under Fire Again After Mussolini Comments

Appearing on Radio 24’s “La Zanzara,” whose hosts are known for “eliciting gaffes from guests,” according to daily La Stampa, Tajani also repeated the well-worn trope that, under Mussolini, Italy’s “trains arrived on time.”

Tajani was quick to point out that he has never been a fascist himself, and does not share Mussolini’s political outlook.

Still, the remarks caused an uproar in the European Parliament, and opponents were quick to criticize Tajani, with some calling for him to step down.

The GUE/NGL, a left-wing group in the parliament, called for Tajani’s immediate resignation, saying in a statement the body “cannot be represented by a president who tolerates the Fascist initiator himself.”

Philippe Lamberts, co-president of the Greens/European Free Alliance, noted in a statement that “it’s not the first time that Tajani flirts with the far-right.”

Tajani apologized on Thursday, saying his comments were “in no way intended to justify or play down an anti-democratic and totalitarian regime.”

“I have always stressed that Mussolini and fascism were the darkest chapter in the history of the past century, without any distinction,” Tajani said.

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