Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy couldn’t resist sharing a knowing smile when they were asked if they thought Silvio Berlusconi would come up with financial reforms to help combat the eurozone crisis.
Sneaky smirks shared between the German Chancellor and French President (nicknamed Merkozy due to their close relationship) at an EU summit in Brussels prompted laughter from journalists, provoking Italian newspapers to rally round in support of their leader.
International mockery even had Berlusconi’s fiercest critics facing down his ridicule, with Italy’s leading daily, Corriere della Sera, which has criticised Berlusconi for delaying the very financial reforms the European leaders were quizzed about, describing their stifled giggles as “excessive” and saying:
“For an Italian it was not great, and it matters little if you are pro- or anti-Berlusconi.”
Sarkozy, who was the first of the leaders to start smiling, had his smirk compared to a French footballer headbutting an Italian one, specifically that of Italian footballer Marco Matterazzi by France's Zinedine Zidane in the 2006 World Cup final (as seen below). The imaginative jibe by Il Giornale was was perhaps predictable from a newspaper owned by the Berlusconi family.
Some speculated that Merkel took the chance to smile back as payback for reports that Berlusconi called the German Chancellor "an unf**kable lard a**e" in a phone call.
However the Italian prime minister seemed to suggest that Sarkozy’s readiness to ridicule him is due to his irritation at Italy’s overrepresentation on the European Central Bank's board, now that Italian Mario Draghi has been appointed chairman and Italian board member Lorenzo Bini Smaghi is refusing to step down to make way for a French appointee.
Berlusconi said that there’s little he can do to placate the French leader:
"Sarkozy has started to get annoyed. At a certain point I said to Sarkozy, "But what am I supposed to do? Kill him?'"