Italy to Britain: 'Pizza Image Doesn't Cut It'

A favorite Italian food is occupying center stage in a diplomatic flare-up between London and Rome.

"It is deeply insulting," Prime Minister Romano Prodi has said, for Britain to have produced a European Union logo with a pepperoni pizza representing Italy in the design.

British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook issued a statement explaining no offense was meant when his officials asked schoolchildren to come up with star-shaped paintings intended to epitomize the 15 EU countries.

Privately, Mr. Cook's aides are laughing heartily at Italian sensitivity. "We could have done a lot worse," one official quipped. "It could have been the Leaning Tower of Pizza."

The logo is to mark Britain's six-month EU presidency, which began Jan. 1. Thirty-two children ages 8 to 11 took part in the logo project. In each case, a British child was paired with one from another EU country. Each pair was asked to design a star that best captured their ideas of that nation. A London design company produced the finished logo, which has appeared on posters, notepaper, T-shirts, and other items.

Sweden is represented by a mountain, Germany by streams and forests, Denmark by the famous Little Mermaid, and Austria by a group of musical notes. Britain shows up as a star-shaped red, white, and blue Union Jack.

Only Italy gets the kind of treatment one associates with the British sense of humor.

In an apparent bid to defuse the row, the Foreign Office announced that the two children who produced the offending star were a British boy and the son of an Italian police officer. This appears to have cut little crust with the Foreign Ministry in Rome, where a senior official suggested Britain should have represented itself "not with a flag but a plate of fish and chips."

Back in London, Cook's people are still trying to decide whether the remark was intended as an insult, or a sample of Italian humor.

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