Former PM: Berlusconi paid attention to small countries

Silvio Berlusconi and Andrus Ansip.
Silvio Berlusconi and Andrus Ansip. Source: European Union

Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who died on Monday, paid attention to small countries — especially when Italy's interests aligned with theirs, said former vice-president of the European Commission and long-time Prime Minister Andrus Ansip (Reform).

Ansip had working relations with Berlusconi, who was a four-time prime minister, between 2005-2011.

"To his credit, I must say that he was also very attentive to the concerns of smaller countries, especially when his concerns coincided with those of smaller countries," he said, remembering the politician's actions.

He said, during Berlusconi's time in power, Italy showed support for many of Estonia's initiatives.

"For example, we received very strong support from Italy for the development of energy interconnections with EU funds, or for investment in information and communication technologies from the EU budget, which neither Germany nor France tended to support at the time," Ansip said.

Berlusconi was also known for his good relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin, but it was not on the same level as Putin's relationship with some other EU leaders, Ansip believes.

"The friendship between Putin and Berlusconi is certainly not comparable to the friendship between [German Chancellor Gerhard] Schröder and Putin, Berlusconi had many friends, he knew how to find allies," the former prime minister (2005-2014) said. 

"He was never prepared to sacrifice his personal business interests, Italy's interests, or the EU's interests for friendship, but of course what Berlusconi may have considered to be in the European interest may not have been in the European interest, according to public opinion."

Berlusconi's tenure was besieged by scandals, including the infamous and widely reported bunga bunga parties.

The Italian politician was caught up in some of these scandals by accident, but not all, Ansip said.

"Once, as I was leaving a European Council meeting, I asked him why he didn't invite me to his famous bunga bunga party. Berlusconi replied: "I've invited you to watch football and to visit me, but you haven't come. But you know, Andrus, my support, after that bunga bunga media coverage, skyrocketed". So in fact, he was very careful about what he did and said, although the public got the impression that it was all by accident," Ansip recalled.

Silvio Berlusconi died on Monday at the age of 86. He was the longest-serving prime minister of post-war Italy.

The BBC described him as "a media mogul, football club owner and billionaire businessman who never gave up on politics - and helped shape Italy's image for decades".


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Editor: Karmen Kikas, Helen Wright

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