The European Parliament’s Italian President, Antonio Tajani, is facing harsh criticism for suggesting fascist dictator Benito Mussolini did some positive things before he turned bad.
The outcry was sparked in comment Tajani made to Radio 24, an Italian radio station, were he said that before following Hitler into war, Mussolini had “built roads, bridges, buildings, sports facilities”.
Political opponents have expressed their shock at his remarks. But adding context to those remarks, the centre-right Forza Italia politician said that Mussolini was not a “champion of democracy”, that his anti-Jewish laws were “crazy” and that bringing Italy into war was “suicide”.
Tajani is insisting that his critics are manipulating his words and that he is a convinced anti-fascist.
Some MEPs in the Strasbourg parliament brandished posters featuring Mr Tajani’s face, with the caption “never again fascism” and some asking for his resignation.
Tajani last month again caused controversy when he declared at a commemoration of a World War II massacre that took place on the border between Italy and Slovenia: “Long live Trieste, long live Italian Istria, long live Italian Dalmatia, long live Italian exiles.”
Those remarks sparked outrage in Slovenia and Croatia as Istria includes parts of present-day Italy, Slovenia and Croatia — and Dalmatia is part of Croatia. Both areas were occupied by Italian fascists during World War II.