Tue Jun 21, 2005 2:24 PM BST
By Clara Ferreira-Marques
PARMA, Italy (Reuters) - Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi repeated one of his most famous diplomatic gaffes on Tuesday by insulting the cuisine of Finland which Italy beat to host the new European Food Safety Authority.
"I've been to Finland and I had to endure the Finnish diet so I am in a position to make a comparison," Berlusconi told local dignitaries ahead of the inauguration of the EFSA in the northern Italian town of Parma.
The 68-year-old media tycoon also said he had used his masculine charm to persuade Finland's president, Tarja Halonen, to give up her country's claim to host the European Union agency.
"I had to use all my playboy tactics, even if they have not been used for some time," said Berlusconi.
At the opening ceremony later in the day, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso would have the chance to sample Parma's famous smoked ham, Berlusconi said, and see for himself that it was better than traditional Finnish food.
"Barroso today will be able to taste our 'culatello' as opposed to smoked herrings from Finland," he said to laughter from the audience.
Italy fought hard to host the EU agency and Berlusconi reportedly told a summit of European leaders in December 2001: "Parma is synonymous with good cuisine. The Finns don't even know what prosciutto is."
The line has become one of the most memorable of Berlusconi's long list of indiscretions.
In October 2002 he told a joint press conference with Denmark's Anders Fogh Rasmussen the Dane was "the best-looking prime minister in Europe".
"He's so good looking, I'm even thinking of introducing him to my wife," he added, chuckling to himself.
During a photograph with other EU leaders in Spain in February 2002, Berlusconi raised two fingers behind the head of the then Spanish Foreign Minister Josep Pique, in the traditional Latin gesture for a cuckold.
2. Italian Ambassador to Finland was summoned to the Ministry for Foreign Affairs
Press release 199/2005
22 June, 2005
The Italian Ambassador to Finland, Ugo Gabriele de Mohr, was today summoned to the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, where he was informed about the Finnish Government's astonishment at the Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's statements, made at the opening ceremony of the European Food Safety Authority in Parma, Italy, on Tuesday, 21 June.