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Civil society turns to Europe to call for peace

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More and more European citizens are turning to the EU institutions in Brussels to demand that they take a leading role in ending the conflict in Ukraine. Catholic journalist, Marco Tarquinio, tells Vatican News of a widespread expectation that Europe, which is based on values ​​of respectful coexistence and fraternity, will act for peace in accordance with the Pope’s calls.

By Gabriella Ceraso & Linda Bordoni

It is increasingly clear that not only is there no solution to the war in Ukraine on the horizon, but also that the conflict and the suffering it causes may soon fade from the spotlight and fall into the oversight.

This pushes civil society to mobilize from below, silently but concretely, in favor of a “European initiative” which would transform the EU into a protagonist in the peace process.

That is the aim of a 15-point peace plan to end the Russian-Ukrainian war published last week and presented Monday at the headquarters of the European Parliament’s Italian Bureau.

He proposes a negotiated compromise peace agreement which could be negotiated by France, Germany, Italy, Turkey and Israel and would be followed by a cessation of all military operations and the withdrawal of all Russian military forces. of Ukraine outside the Donbass region.

The comprehensive peace proposal attempts to permanently resolve, rather than postpone resolution, all existing areas of contention between Russia and Ukraine in order to ensure that Russia will have no reason to resume hostilities against the Ukraine in the future.

It also addresses some of Russia’s most pressing security concerns while serving to enhance the security of NATO members by reducing the prospects of future conflict with Russia.

Marco Tarquinio is the editorial director of the Catholic publication “Avvenire”. He spoke to Vatican News about the highlights of the plan and Pope Francis’ repeated calls for peace.

Q: Civil society calls for a united Europe. What are the central points of this call to responsibility?

It is a call which springs from below but which intends to put pressure on those who have the political power and the possibility of influencing current events, and to steer them in a different direction from that undertaken so far, without neglect all available tools.

First and foremost, the role of the United Nations, where the European Union does not have the right to vote but is represented alongside its 27 members, including France, a permanent member of the Security Council, which must take the responsibility of promoting a mediation initiative. This is something that must also, and above all, take place in the General Assembly, where a large majority of the nations pushing in this direction have already gathered.

Then there would have to be the intervention of a peacekeeping force – a word that seems to have been banished from the current scenario – and a humanitarian corridor would have to be kept open at all times. This is important to avoid what has already happened in other conflicts in which the escape routes that preserve the human dignity of the person have been sealed once the emotion of the moment has passed.

The EU is then asked to intervene in the negotiations, both possible and necessary, and not only in the role of spectator. In this regard, the document takes into account that Italy is one of the countries that has already taken a step in this direction, a step that has triggered a series of dystonic reactions from the parties concerned, especially from Russia.

In short, he calls on Europe to “grow”. It asks it to equip itself with a common security system, interdependent of States and independent of other dimensions, endowed with a genuine security and defense organization endowed with two arms: a non-aggressive military and a non-violent civilian.

Coming back to the subject of an international framework, the other appeal is addressed to multilateral organisations. The United Nations of course, but also the OSCE which, according to a wish shared by the Holy See and the President of the Italian Republic, must become a reference and embody the spirit of the actions carried out. This, so that we do not rush towards the direction of Yalta, but towards that of the Helsinki agreements of 1975 which opened a new phase in relations between European states and for stability and peace in the world.

Q: Europe is currently bearing the brunt of the immediate consequences of what is happening in Ukraine. It is a Europe which funds the conflict with arms, but which has called for responsibility and the promotion of peace, multilateral solutions and conflict prevention in accordance with Article 21 of the EU Treaty. How can we make this item work? Why it does not work ?

This article does not work because Europe is broken, it does not agree on the direction to take. Despite an apparent unanimity at the start of the war, different sensibilities and tendencies emerged among the 27 member states. During the press conference, we expressed the wish that even if there is not absolute unanimity, there will be at least one initiative from the European institutions, to agree on an initiative for enhanced cooperation involving a few major countries .

A hint of this was seen in the joint mission to Kyiv by the leaders of France, Germany and Italy, the three great founding countries that gave impetus to the EU. We would like this to be reinforced, using the instruments indicated in article 21 – which is the translation of article 11 of the Constitution of the Italian Republic. It is the article quoted by many Italians, and by the Holy Father himself, who supported him during this crisis.

He says that “Italy rejects war as an instrument of aggression against the freedom of other peoples and as a means of settling international disputes”.

This is a key point. Politically, we would like to see a strong and coherent initiative from the great European leaders who would thus respond to the feelings of so many people who today are not represented by what is happening in the public arena.

Q: Is there a disconnect between civil society and politics? And responding to the Pope’s call to each of us to ask what we can do for peace, can this proposal be of support?

I think the right path is the “simple” path, accessible to all thinking people with a heart. And it means organizing mobilizations from below, as is already done – less noticeable than in the past because there is a lack of large gatherings – but there are meetings in all regions of the country.

I know something about it myself, personally, as well as all the promoters of this initiative, which brings together people of different sensitivities, from different backgrounds, people of faith and those without faith, and this is very important. I think that together we have to constantly push and show governments that this disconnect between public opinion and those with the power to push buttons has to go, given the very complicated situation we have before us .

We are not talking about “wishes” from below or from above. We must find a way, together, to put pressure on the protagonists of the war, so that they choose a different path: one that puts an end to the suffering of the people, starting with the Ukrainian people, who are, at this stage , the one being attacked. Everyone can do their part, every drop in the ocean counts.

Q: Pope Francis’ positions on war, crises, weapons, common responsibility have been criticized and considered utopian. Is that the case? What are your thoughts on this?

The most serious thing is that they were also censored. I think that at this moment, above all, we must be grateful to Pope Francis.

For us Catholics, it’s simple; for so many others, it is just as easy to identify with the appeals he has launched with extraordinary efficiency and which point in another direction, one that, it seems, we do not want to see.

There is a road ahead of us that seems impossible to navigate. The Pope knows how to tell us this and he does so as a man of faith, as a First Citizen in a world that has no other First Citizens who know how to take initiatives for peace.

It is no coincidence that even the supporters of the appeal I have decided to join (the National Association of Italian Partisans, Arci, and the European Movement), wanted to launch an appeal to the Catholic world, by through the President of the Italian Episcopal Conference, Cardinal Matteo Maria Zuppi, who undertook to receive it and hand it over to the Holy See.

This is because they all recognize in Pope Francis the highest, most credible and clear point of reference, at a time when other voices may have great interests in the conduct of mediations, but may -not be in the “general interest” to build a new level of security. , coexistence and mutual respect under the sign of fraternity, fundamental for us Christians.