European Parliament president apologises for Mussolini remarks


Strasbourg (France) (AFP)

The right-wing Italian president of the European Parliament Antonio Tajani apologised Thursday for remarks defending dictator Benito Mussolini's record, as MEPs called for his resignation.

"As a convinced anti-fascist, I apologise to all those who may have been offended by what I said. My remarks were in no way intended to justify or minimise an anti-democratic and totalitarian regime," Tajani, who is close to tycoon and former Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi, said in a statement in English.

"I am deeply saddened that, despite my personal and political history, some may feel that I would choose to be lenient with regards to fascism," he added.

Tajani was in hot water earlier after talking up dictator Benito Mussolini's contributions, in an Italian radio interview on Wednesday.

"You don't have to agree with his methods... but let's be honest, Mussolini built roads, bridges, buildings, sports installations, he remade many parts of our Italy," said Tajani.

"Generally speaking I don't think his government action was positive. But things were done," he added.

He mentioned also "very serious, unacceptable mistakes", including eliminating opponents, race laws and declaring war.

Many MEPs in Brussels recalled the alliance of Tajani's Forza Italia with far-right parties the Lega and Fratelli d'Italia.

"The statements by the president of the European parliament are unworthy and absolutely unacceptable," the head of the Greens-European Free Alliance grouping, Ska Keller, said in a statement.

"Antonio Tajani must withdraw his comments normalising fascism or resign," said the German MEP.