Silvio Berlusconi's close encounters with Czech politicians remembered

The ex-Italian leader played his part in Czech political controversies, especially after a former Czech PM was pictured naked at Berlusconi's house. Staff

Written by Staff Published on 12.06.2023 14:03:00 (updated on 12.06.2023) Reading time: 2 minutes

Italian former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has died at the age of 86 from blood cancer and a lung infection. Berlusconi, who last visited Czechia in April 2009 as part of an EU-US summit, had three stints as Italian prime minister: from 1994 to 1995, 2001 to 2006, and 2008 to 2011.

He was the president of the center-right Forza Italia political party up until his death. Throughout his career, he faced several scandals, including his infamous “bunga bunga” parties, which allegedly included sex with prostitutes and with an underage girl. He was also accused of massive conflicts of interest due to his extensive control over Italian media and became the subject of corruption investigations.

Berlusconi's Czech controversies

Although the Italian's relationship with Czechia was never particularly close, he still routinely made his way (directly or indirectly) into Czech headlines. For example, former Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek was photographed naked at Berlusconi's summer house in 2008. 

Topolánek defended himself vigorously, suggesting that "nothing was wrong" with vacationing abroad and that no untoward activity happened with any females also present at Berlusconi's villa.

He also claimed that his genitalia had been photoshopped, although an expert on photography dispelled these claims. A businessman from Italy who was at the house later testified in court that some people had been taking cocaine and that the girls pictured were prostitutes.

Berlusconi spoke out against Czechia in the past. In 2011, an interviewer asked then-Czech Deputy Prime Minster Karel Schwarzenberg whether it had been wise to let Italy adopt the euro in 1999.

Schwarzenberg replied: “Italy appeared better off then. It’s true that the Berlusconi government carries the blame that it didn’t manage [to introduce needed] reforms. Unfortunately, Berlusconi – close your ears – f**ked away that time instead of using it for reforms.” This drew anger from Berlusconi, who tasked the Italian ambassador to Czechia to demand an explanation for the comments. 

Czech member of European Parliament (MEP) Tomáš Zdechovský said today that Berlusconi was "an influential politician" who was instrumental in setting Italy's course in recent years. Zdechovský added: "Despite his scandals and controversies, he was still very influential [including in the] European Parliament," where he was part of the center-right EPP Group.

Former Czech finance minister Miroslav Kalousek was more critical, calling Berlusconi "a politician with right-wing rhetoric that could not (and perhaps did not want to) turn into action." According to Kalousek, the Italian politician "promised the Italians reforms and instead led them into unprecedented debt," making him "an example for many 'right-wing politicians' that talking is enough."

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