World News

European parliament eurosceptic group expels Italian for racism

ROME (Reuters) - An Italian member of the European Parliament was expelled from the eurosceptic Europe of Freedom and Democracy group on Monday for what its co-leader called “repugnant” racist remarks towards a black minister in Italy’s government.

Mario Borghezio, an EFD member from Italy’s pro-devolution Northern League, has a history of outspoken and racist remarks, but his latest comments were too much for the group, which said it had kicked him out by a majority vote.

In April, Borghezio attacked the appointment of Cecile Kyenge, who originates from Democratic Republic of Congo, as Italy’s integration minister, saying she wanted to impose her country’s “tribal traditions” on Italy.

“This is the government of Bonga Bonga,” he said in a radio interview, an apparent play on the so-called “bunga bunga” parties of former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

Borghezio added that “Africa hasn’t produced great geniuses as anyone can see from a Mickey Mouse encyclopaedia,” and called on Kyenge to condemn polygamy.

UK Independence Party (UKIP) leader and EFD Group co-president Nigel Farage said in a statement:

“I made it clear at the last Europe of Freedom and Democracy Group meeting that unless Mr. Borghezio was expelled that UKIP would leave the Group.

“Mr. Borghezio has now been expelled for his repugnant comments. We have sent out an unmistakeable signal that racist comments are unacceptable.”

UKIP made sweeping gains in local British elections last month, despite the party once being dismissed by Prime Minister David Cameron as a “bunch of fruitcakes, loonies and closet racists.”

Borghezio remains an MEP for the Northern League but he will lose some rights in terms of speaking time now that he is outside the parliament’s seven main political groupings.

Borghezio said in a statement that Farage, a former commodity trader, wanted him out of the EFD because Borghezio’s campaigns against tax havens and financial privileges had annoyed Farage’s “powerful friends in the City of London.”

Reporting by Gavin Jones; editing by Mike Collett-White