EP President apologises after Mussolini comments

The President of the European Parliament sparked an outcry after praising parts of Mussolini's regime. Photo credit: Olaf Kosinsky

ROME - President of the European Parliament Antonio Tajani Thursday faced heavy criticism after he praised parts of Benito Mussolini’s Fascist dictatorship.

 Tajani, who is also the Vice President of Berlusconi’s right-wing Forza Italia party, praised Mussolini’s work in advancing Italian infrastructure during an interview on Radio 24.

 “Mussolini?” he said, “Up until he followed Hitler and declared war on the world, up until he became a promoter of racial laws… did some positive things for infrastructure in our country… One must be objective.”

 He went on to say: “I’m not a fascist, I’ve never been a fascist and I do not share his political views. However, we must be honest, Mussolini built roads, buildings, sports facilities, and he reclaimed many parts of our Italy.”

 Mussolini ruled Italy between 1922 and 1943, and was an important ally of Adolf Hitler’s Nazi regime in the early years of the Second World War. It is estimated that he was responsible for the deaths of over 400,000 people during the war years, and had some 20 percent of Jews in Italy deported to German concentration camps.

 Tajani has since come under fire for seemingly downplaying the atrocities Mussolini’s regime committed.

 Amongst the voices of criticism was Udo Bullmann, leader of the Socialist group in the European Parliament, who tweeted: “How can a President of the European Parliament fail to acknowledge the nature of fascism? We need swift clarification.”

 Tajani later argued that his words had been twisted but has since apologised for his statements. “I apologise to all those who may have been offended by what I said. My words did not in any way attempt to justify or downplay an antidemocratic regime,” he said.

 Tajani also drew criticism earlier this year after he ended a speech by saying “Long live Italian Istria, long live Italian Dalmatia”.

 His words referenced former parts of Italy that went to Yugoslavia after the Second World War and form part of modern-day Slovenia and Croatia. Tajani later apologised for his actions.