Leaders of France, Germany, and Italy visit Irpin in Ukraine Leaders of France, Germany, and Italy visit Irpin in Ukraine 

Civil society turns to Europe calling for peace

Increasing numbers of European citizens are turning to the EU institutions in Brussels, demanding they take on a leading role to end the conflict in Ukraine. Catholic journalist Marco Tarquinio tells Vatican News of a widespread expectation that Europe, which is built on values of respectful coexistence and fraternity, take action for peace in line with the Pope’s appeals.

By Gabriella Ceraso & Linda Bordoni

It is increasingly evident not only that there is no solution to the war in Ukraine on the horizon, but also that the conflict and the suffering it is causing may soon disappear from the spotlight and fall into neglect.

This is driving civil society to mobilize from below, silently but concretely pushing for a “European initiative” that would transform the EU into a protagonist of the peace process.

This is the aim of a 15-point peace plan to end the Russo-Ukrainian War, published last week and presented on Monday at the headquarters of the Italian Office of the European Parliament.

It proposes a negotiated compromise peace agreement that could be mediated 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 from Ukraine outside of the Donbas region.

The comprehensive peace proposal attempts to permanently resolve, rather than postpone the resolution of, all existing areas of contention between Russia and Ukraine to ensure that Russia won’t have any reason to resume hostilities against 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 a future conflict with Russia.

Marco Tarquinio is the Editorial Director of the Catholic publication “Avvenire”. He spoke to Vatican News about the salient points of the plan and about Pope Francis’ reiterated appeals for peace.

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

It is a call that wells up from below but intends to pressure those who have political power and the possibility to affect the current events, and to direct them in a different direction than the one undertaken so far, without neglecting all available tools.

First and foremost, the role of the United Nations, where the European Union does not have voting rights but is represented alongside its 27 members, one of which, France, is a permanent member of the Security Council, that must take responsibility for promoting an initiative for mediation. This is something that must also, and especially, take place within the General Assembly, where a large majority of nations who are pressing in this direction have already agglomerated.

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

It is then asked that the EU intervene in negotiations, that are both possible and necessary, not only in the role of spectator. In this regard, the document takes into account the fact that Italy is one of the countries that has already made a move in this direction, a move that triggered a series of dystonic reactions from the parties involved, especially from Russia. 

In short, it calls on Europe to “grow up”. It calls on it to provide a common security system that is interdependent among states and independent of other dimensions, with a real security defense organism that has two arms: a military non-aggressive one, and a civilian non-violent one.

Returning to the topic of an international framework, the other call is directed to multilateral organizations. The United Nations of course, but also the OSCE, which, according to a desire shared by the Holy See and the President of the Italian Republic, should become a point of reference and embody the spirit of the actions that are carried out. This, so that we do not rush towards the direction of Yalta, but towards that of the 1975 Helsinki Accords that opened a new phase in the relationship 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 that is financing the conflict with weapons, but that has called for responsibility and the promotion of peace, multilateral solutions, and conflict prevention according to Article 21 of the EU Treaty. How can we make this Article work? Why isn’t it working?

This article isn't working because Europe is broken, it has not agreed on the direction to take. Despite apparent unanimity in the early stages of the war, different sensitivities and tendencies have emerged among the 27 member states. During the press conference, we expressed the hope that even if there is no absolute unanimity, there should, at least, be an initiative from the European institutions, to agree on an enhanced cooperation initiative involving some major countries.

A hint of this was seen in the joint mission to Kyiv of the leaders of France, Germany, and Italy, the three big founding countries that gave an impetus to the EU. We would like this to be strengthened, using the instruments indicated in Article 21 - which is the translation of Article 11 of the Constitution of the Italian Republic. It’s the Article quoted by many Italians, and by the Holy Father himself, who has upheld it during this crisis.

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

This is a key point. Politically, we would like to see a strong and cohesive initiative of the major European leaders who would thus respond to the feelings of so many people who today are not represented by what is happening on the public stage.

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


I think the right way is the “simple” way, which is available to all thinking people with a heart. And that is to organize mobilizations from below, as is already happening - less perceptible than in the past because there is a lack of big rallies - but there are meetings in every part of the country.

I know something about this myself, personally, as do all the proponents of this initiative, which brings together people of different sensitivities, different backgrounds, people of faith and of no faith, and this is very important. I think that together we have to constantly pressure and show governments that this disconnect between public opinion and those who have the power to push buttons must vanish, taking into account the very complicated situation we have before us.

We are not talking about “wishes” from below or from above. We need to find a way, together, to pressure 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, which is, at this stage, the one being attacked. Everyone can do his or her part, every drop in the ocean counts.

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

What is most serious is that they have also been censored. I think that, at this moment, above all, one should be grateful to Pope Francis.

For us Catholics it is simple; for so many others it is just as simple to recognize themselves in the appeals that he has issued with extraordinary effectiveness and that point to a different direction, the one that, it appears, we don't want to see.

There is a road before us that seems cannot be travelled. 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 proponents of the appeal that I decided to join, (the National Association of Italian Partisans, Arci, and the European Movement), wanted to make an appeal to the Catholic world, through the President of the Italian Episcopal Conference, Cardinal Matteo Maria Zuppi, who committed to receive it and deliver it to the Holy See.

This is because they all recognize in Pope Francis the highest, most credible, and clearest point of reference, at a time when other voices may nurture great interests in conducting mediations, but perhaps not the “general interest” of building a new level of security, coexistence and mutual respect in the sign of fraternity, which is fundamental for us Christians.

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21 June 2022, 17:33