Silvio Berlusconi

I confess to a certain surprise at the way that Massimo D’Alema is climbing up the list of candidates for the post of European Union foreign policy chief.  At first sight the former Italian prime minister and foreign minister ticks far too few boxes to get the job.  But there are, in truth, some straightforward reasons for his ascent – none of which reflects well on the EU.

First, the unticked boxes.  1) His communist past.  This is usually condensed into: “He’s a former communist and therefore unacceptable to Poland and other EU countries, which suffered under Soviet domination while the Italian communist party was gorging itself on covert funds from Moscow.”  In fairness, D’Alema abandoned communism 20 years ago.  I spent five years in Rome covering Italian politics, and he never struck me as an extremist or a hardliner.  Quite the opposite: he was highly pragmatic, in a shifty kind of way. Read more >>

September’s prize for Headline of the Month goes to the sub-editor with the dry sense of humour who put these words at the top of a story about Silvio Berlusconi, the Italian prime minister: “Berlusconi is Best Leader in Italy’s History, says Berlusconi.”

The story itself quotes Berlusconi as telling a news conference in Sardinia, where he was hosting talks with Spanish premier José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero: “I sincerely believe I am by far the best prime minister Italy has had in its 150-year history.”  So the headline, if not the sentiment behind it, cannot be faulted for lack of accuracy. Read more >>