Building a future based on cooperation: a meeting on the topic at the Italian Embassy to the Holy See

Discuss what are the concrete and viable ways to restore space for dialogue, then ask yourself how to build a new and more just system of international relations. Times are complex, the threat is serious, the effort must be, to use the words of Robert Schuman, “creative”. Within these objectives, the meeting “Europe and war: from the spirit of Helsinki to the prospects of peace” was held today at the Italian embassy to the Holy See, in collaboration with the geopolitical magazine limes and the Vatican media. Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin, the Italian Ambassador to the Holy See Francesco di Nitto, the Editorial Director of the Vatican Media Andrea Tornielli and the Director of the Review were present limes Lucio Caracciolo.

Welcoming the guests and greeting the spectators connected in streaming thanks to the live broadcast by Vatican Media, the Nitto ambassador expressed his best wishes for a “prompt recovery” to the President of the Italian Republic, Sergio Mattarella. “There is no peace without justice, there is no justice without forgiveness”: from this admonition of St. John Paul ii Andrea Tornielli began his greetings, then recalling the coincidence according to which first President Mattarella, then Cardinal Parolin and finally Pope Francis “referred to that spirit of collaboration which in the mid-1970s contributed to détente in Europe”. «This meeting is inspired by their words – continued Tornielli – not so much to analyze what Helsinki was like, but to discuss the possibilities of returning to the negotiating table with creativity and courage. As Robert Schuman, quoted by President Mattarella at the Council of Europe, reminded us, “peace can only be safeguarded with creative efforts, proportional to the dangers that threaten it”».

Strive to safeguard, therefore. In particular, Cardinal Secretary of State Parolin highlighted the need for “disarmament” as the “only adequate and decisive response if we want to build a future of peace”, but also the contribution of young people, “so as not to fall back on ourselves, to do not be deaf to the cry for peace that rises from many quarters”. Because, Parolin continued, “we need courage, to bet on peace and not on the ineluctability of war; on dialogue and cooperation, and not on threats and divisions”. The principles sanctioned in Helsinki represent the compass for navigating the complexity: sovereign equality, non-recourse to the threat or use of force, territorial integrity of states, peaceful resolution of disputes, non-intervention in internal affairs, respect for human rights and of fundamental freedoms, equal rights and self-determination of peoples and cooperation between states.

But today? How has the world changed after February 24th? What course did those princes take? «In a construction site of “diplomatic building”, the pillars of Helsinki would be the first to need rigorous “restructuring” today”, recalled Professor Matteo Luigi Napolitano in his historical overview. In which way? The second part of the meeting took place on these bases: a round table, coordinated by Lucio Caracciolo, which was attended by Professor Andrea Riccardi, historian and founder of the Community of Sant’Egidio, Claudio Descalzi, CEO of eni and Professor Monica Lugato, of the Libera Università Maria SS. Assumption (Lumsa).

«It is never too early to prepare peace», Caracciolo began, «and if it is true that today, unlike Helsinki, we have many and very jagged fronts, it is therefore true that the war does not take place only in Ukraine, but it has worldwide repercussions”. Unfortunately, Andrea Riccardi intervened, “the spirit of Helsinki is lost behind our backs and we find ourselves in a perspective of war without peace, with the risk that the conflict will become eternal as happens in Syria and elsewhere”. In this sense, the «lack of a vision but at the same time the need for a vision is paradoxical. To overcome the war we have to tell ourselves what kind of Europe we want». So, added Riccardi, «to start looking to the future, we need to try to freeze such an intense war. It is difficult to seek paths to peace without vision and with a war that consumes our energies. A ceasefire or at least a Christmas truce would be relevant. Yet, there is an increasing sense that, in our Western societies, official support for Ukraine is officially growing but is actually decreasing, for example in public opinion. Europe has two different sensitivities about its future as well as its relationship with Russia: Eastern countries perceive it as a total threat. But the others? If Russia’s assessment is different, the response to the conflict cannot be eliminated. Countless choices of the future depend on the answer to certain questions». Recalling the economic consequences of the war, Caracciolo then introduced the CEO of eni : «This war has caught Europe in its weakest moment – Descalzi began – it is out of energy and full of internal competitiveness. It has rising interest rates and an industry that pays eight times as much energy as its partners. We are running the risk of forgetting about this war because of the sanctions, which are perfectly correct, but which are weakening the internal European structure. Europe is alone. It is the only one that is bearing the brunt of the sanctions and that is really fighting for climate change, a war not to be forgotten. On the other hand, there is Africa, which is paying for other incredible consequences of this war in terms of energy but above all in terms of food». Faced with the habit of peace and the emptiness of leadership, the question what to do ?it emerges clearly: «We need leaders with vision and with spirituality – Descalzi reiterated -, we must realize our weakness, make an act of humility. Greater Europe must think it is weak. This moment of awareness must make us visionaries towards those who are weaker. For example, Africa. Africa and Europe are two large similar entities. We are weak. But they know it, we don’t. And if we manage to create solidarity, by helping Europe itself it will also help Africa».

Finally, the voice of law, entrusted to Professor Lugato who began with a question: «Is the European Union really acting as an actor of peace? If, on the one hand, as a subject of international law it has strongly condemned the Russian invasion of Ukraine, on the other it has taken initiatives that go in opposite directions. I am referring to the proposal to set up an international tribunal to condemn Russia and to define Russia as a terrorist state”. Speaking of the sensations that distance the idea of ​​peace, Lugato mentioned “the elimination of freedom of expression” since “knowledge of the facts, and not of a part of the facts, is essential to arrive at the resolution of conflicts”. Furthermore, if it is true that “legitimate defense is recognized by international law as a natural law, it also establishes its limits. And, above all, today it assigns a specific function to legitimate defense: the State can legitimately respond to the attack received but the restoration of international peace and legality must always prevail. Lugato identified “respect for international law” as the only way “to respect peace”. Under these conditions, Caracciolo said, it can be concluded that “if it is true that there is no peace without justice, it is also true that there is no justice without peace”.

from William Gallone

Building a future based on cooperation: a meeting on the topic at the Italian Embassy to the Holy See – L’Osservatore Romano