BERLIN – German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder (search) canceled plans Wednesday to vacation in Italy after an Italian official branded German tourists "hyper-nationalist" arrogant blonds.
Schroeder decided the ongoing flap between Italy and Germany would make it hard for his family to have a restful and quiet vacation together, his spokesman Bela Anda said.
Instead of taking a trip to the Marche region of central Italy on July 19 or 20, Schroeder and his family will vacation in the chancellor's home city of Hanover.
The German government welcomed a scramble by Italian ministers to distance themselves from the remarks last week by Stefano Stefani (search), an undersecretary in the Industry Ministry responsible for tourism.
Still, two senior German ministers stoked the spat further by urging the Italian government to fire Stefani.
"If I was the leader of the Italian government, this man would no longer be in office," Interior Minister Otto Schily told ZDF television, though he said he has no plans to give up his own house in Tuscany over the flap.
Economics and Labor Minister Wolfgang Clement was quoted in the mass-circulation Bild Zeitung Wednesday as saying Stefani should be "taken out of circulation."
The row soured German-Italian relations anew after Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi (search) last week told a German lawmaker in the European Parliament that he would make a "perfect" Nazi prison guard.
It also prompted a spate of appeals from Italian officials for millions of Germans to go ahead with vacations to Italy's beaches and cities this summer.
Under the headline "Chancellor, stay strong: No Bella Italia!" Bild responded Wednesday by urging Schroeder to take his vacation in Germany — which, it said, "is not only beautiful but also much cheaper."
Still, the lawmaker on the receiving end of Berlusconi's comments, Martin Schulz, said he wouldn't advise Germans against vacationing in Italy.
"Italy is a beautiful country," he told the daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung. "The Northern League, to which Stefani belongs, only wins a few percent in elections — and even Berlusconi isn't Italy."
Italy's European affairs minister said in a German radio interview that Stefani "must give us a satisfactory explanation," and added that "no one in Italy and no one in the government identifies himself with such remarks."
"But the one who began all this was Schulz," who prompted Berlusconi's tirade by questioning the premier about laws that have eased his legal problems, Rocco Buttiglione said on Deutschlandfunk.
"Then came Berlusconi's answer, which was a mistake. He didn't find the right words, and the misunderstandings deepened as a result."