British MEP causes furore with Nazi jibe over Greece

Outspoken British MEP Nigel Farage stormed out of the European Parliament on Wednesday after its German chairman cut him off in mid-flight for comparing Berlin’s ideas for Greece to Nazi control.

During a post-EU summit debate featuring top bloc leaders, Farage criticised a leaked German plan for EU control of Greek public spending, saying bailed out Athens was already practically an EU ”colony, a terrible huge mistake.” Farage, a former City banker in London who is now a popular television political pundit, described the German finance ministry proposals as installing ”a gauleiter,” a Nazi party regional official under Adolf Hitler.

Darling of the English right, Farage said of the Berlin proposal: ”Suggesting an EU commissioner and his staff occupy a big building in Athens and take over the running of the country, a ’gauleiter’ some may say, I thought it must be a joke.” The comment provoked uproar, especially among German MEPs, with Greens lawmaker Reinhard Buetikofer accusing the UK Independence Party (UKIP) chief of spreading ”hatred in the European Parliament, hatred between European peoples”.

Newly-installed parliament speaker Martin Schulz also intervened with a comment about nationalism, before Farage came back: ”We have German newspapers slagging off the Greeks for being lazy and useless, slagging off the Italians for being cowards and we have Italian and Greek newspapers depicting leading figures in Germany wearing Nazi uniforms.” Farage was called to order from the speaker’s chair, before Schulz turned off his microphone, Schulz’s spokesman Armin Machmer said.

Farage finally had no option but to ”walk out of the chamber in disgust,” his spokesman Hermann Kelly said.

Farage, who said he was only repeating a word used in British media at the weekend, later lodged a formal complaint saying Schulz -- long a sparring partner before the German became speaker last month -- stepped beyond the boundaries of his authorised role as moderator.

”His only answer was to threaten me with removal from the chamber by the ushers,” Farage told AFP.

Machmer had told AFP that Farage could face a fine of up to 10 days’ parliamentary allowances, should Schulz, a Socialist on the opposite side of the political fence from Germany’s ruling coaltion, decide to take action.

Once seen as a maverick, Farage is now widely viewed as a standard-bearer for a growing rump of mainly English voters who want a referendum on ending European Union membership.

He secured a million votes at the last general election, surviving a helicopter crash on polling day and a series of operations on his back to boost his popularity.

His party’s advances have ensured that pressure remains high on Prime Minister David Cameron over Europe -- as again seen in the wake of Monday night’s summit in Brussels.

Farage and fellow eurosceptics in Cameron’s Conservatives are also eyeing Scotland’s upcoming vote on full political independence from the rest of the United Kingdom as a key opportunity in their quest. [AFP]

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