31st Mar 2023

Berlusconi insults Spain with remark on female ministers

Even before officially taking over as Italy's third time prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi has already raised eyebrows with remarks on the European Central Bank's powers as well as on the Spanish government, suggesting it is "too pink".

The centre-right winner of the Italian parliamentary elections is currently involved in coalition talks to set up a government expected to have 12 ministers, including four women.

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When asked by an Italian radio to comment on the composition of the Spanish cabinet of Prime Minister Zapatero – with nine female and eight male ministers - Mr Berlusconi suggested it is "too pink."

"Now he [Mr Zapatero] has asked for it, he will have problems leading them," said the Italian leader. "In Italy there is a prevalence of men in politics and therefore it is not so easy to find women who are ready for the government," he added.

The comment went almost unnoticed by Italian media, used to his frequent playboy-kind of jokes, but it sparked an angry reaction in Madrid, with Magdalena Alvarez, Spain's infrastructure minister, describing it as an offensive.

"Many of us women would refuse to work for a government that had Mr Berlusconi as prime minister," she noted.

But Mr Berlusconi tried to repair the damage on Wednesday (16 April), arguing that his words had been incorrectly reported and stressing that he had in fact "greatly appreciated the colour pink in that government."

"It's possible that the female members take a series of measures stemming from the everyday life, from the concrete reality of being a mother, a wife and perhaps also a working woman," Mr Berlusconi told reporters, according to AP.

Apart from his usual gaffes on women, Mr Berlusconi has attracted attention in European quarters with a remark on the European Central Bank, sparking expectations that he will join the French president Nicolas Sarkozy in trying to meddle with its established status and independence.

"I think that the ECB's problem is its mission," Mr. Berlusconi told reporters on Wednesday, adding that "a widening of the ECB's role is needed...beyond its role of controlling inflation."

He also suggested he would seek to help boost Europe's global stance as a new Italian leader.

"There is a need to reconstruct a Europe that has a leading role in the Western world that can tackle with determination, the problems facing the world," Mr Berlusconi said.

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