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Signore Silvio Berlusconi — Italy's Strong Man?

Our best quotes on what people think of the EU’s current president.

July 21, 2003

Our best quotes on what people think of the EU's current president.

From cruise ship crooner to property dealer to media tycoon to Italian Prime Minster. He also owns a football club. Silvio Berlusconi's political career was never a foregone conclusion. Whatever he may lack in experience on the political stage, today he has made up for with sheer limitless self-assurance. His over-confidence has resulted in frequent gaffes that ensure constant media attention. Our Read My Lips feature explores an Italian character.

Why did you want to become prime minister in the first place?

“I was driven by the knowledge that only I can turn this country around.”

(Silvio Berlusconi, May 2001)

How do you compare yourself to other leaders?

“I am the greatest politician in the world.”

(July 2001)

How does your business experience help?

“I am an innovator and being an innovator does not mean being unpredictable or even dangerous.”

(July 2003)

What got Mr. Berlusconi elected?

“Italians swing between extreme suspicion of their rulers and extreme confidence in the abilities of one man.”

(Editorial in The Economist, February 2003)

Why are you the target of so many lawsuits in your country?

“The left knows it can never get into power in Italy through the democratic tool called elections.”

(May 2003)

Do others beg to differ?

“In Italy, business and politics have long been intimately, and often corruptly, entwined.”

(Editorial in The Economist, February 2003)

Do you agree with people who think you should display more self-control?

“If there is someone moderate and well-balanced, that is me.”

(July 2003)

What are your views on the international media coverage you receive?

“I sometimes think they are talking about someone else — a sort of ghost, going around Europe creating offence and crimes.”

(July 2003)

Why are you concerned about the Italian media?

“85% of the Italian press is against the government.”

(July 2003)

Do you have a strained relationship with journalists?

“In Italy, we say that journalists are very pleasant people. But then they start writing.”

(July 2003)

How tough is life as a politician?

“I have a sailboat, but in two years, I’ve only been on it one day.”

(May 2003)

How pro-American are you?

“When I hear the word America, I take sides instinctively, thinking that America is always right — even if I become more critical later on.”

(July 2001)

Did this show at an early stage?

“Silvio Berlusconi was nicknamed ‘l’Americano’ in his youth.”

(Wall Street reporter Yaroslav Trofimov, July 2001)

How do you see Europe vis-à-vis the United States?

“The European Union is a federation of nation states that have a unified foreign and defense policy alongside the great American democracy.”

(January 2002)

How did some members of the European Parliament view the start of your presidency?

“This turning into the Tommy Cooper presidency. It’s a complete shambles.”

(Gary Titley, Leader of British Labour MEPs, July 2003)

Were others less critical?

“At least you cannot accuse Silvio Berlusconi of making life dull — either in Italy or abroad.”

(Editorial in The Economist, July 2003)

Is Mr. Berlusconi up to his job?

“Berlusconi is a populist who is in many ways out of his depth — and that is a problem for the Italian government.”

(John Palmer, political director of the European Policy Center, July 2003)

Why do some European observers believe Mr. Berlusconi is putting Italy in a bad light?

“Italy today is a country in which nepotism, corruption and dishonesty are incarnate in the political leader.”

(Danish paper Information, July 2003)