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EU Parliament head says Mussolini government did good things too, draws anger

EU Parliament head says Mussolini government did good things too, draws anger
The president of the European Parliament, Antonio Tajani, was again branded a secret fascist sympathizer after saying the government of Benito Mussolini did some good things for Italy.

The Italian EU politician offered some cautious praise to the policies of the notorious dictator and ally of Adolf Hitler during World War II when he appeared on a popular Radio 24 news show. Tajani acknowledged that Mussolini did a lot of terrible things – from joining forces with Nazi Germany, which was a suicidal move for Italy, to imposing anti-Jewish racial laws, to possibly being behind the assassination of his political opponent, Giacomo Matteotti, who was killed by members of the fascist secret police.

But, “he did positive things to realize infrastructures in our country,” Tajani said.

One must be objective. I’m not a fascist, I have never been a fascist and I don’t share his political thought, but if we must be honest, he built roads, bridges, buildings... he reclaimed many parts of our Italy.

Despite the hemming and hawing, many were angered by his words, including fellow EU officials. Some said he is secretly exactly what he said he is not – a fascist sympathizer.

Tajani responded to the criticism, reiterating that he is anti-fascist and accusing critics of manipulating his words.

The Italian politician saw a similar wave of accusations in February after he took part in a ceremony to commemorate the deaths of Italian soldiers killed by Yugoslav partisans during World War II. Some people, including the Slovenian president and prime minister, said the speeches delivered there, in which the killings were compared to ethnic cleansing, were “historical revisionism.”

Tajani immediately apologized for causing offence, saying he did not intend to hurt anyone’s feelings.

“In my speech, I wanted to highlight the path to peace and reconciliation between the Italian, Croatian and Slovenian peoples and their contribution to the European project,” he said in a statement.

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Mussolini was one of many right-wing European political leaders who allied with Hitler’s Nazi Germany and ended up suffering the consequences. For him the choice proved fatal, after he was caught and summarily executed by Italian partisans. Others fared better. Spain’s Francisco Franco remained neutral in the war and remained in power till 1975 as a treasured NATO ally. Finland’s Carl Mannerheim maneuvered his country from fighting against the Soviet Union alongside the Nazis to signing a separate armistice and fighting a new war against retreating German troops.

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