Interview. We spoke with Piero Bartolo, a member of the European Parliament from the Socialist and Democrats group, who abstained from voting on the weapons plan for Ukraine.

Piero Bartolo: ‘I never heard any mention of peace’

Dr. Piero Bartolo, a doctor treating migrants in Lampedusa and a MEP elected on the lists of the PD, member of the Socialists and Democrats group, abstained on the munitions plan that was voted in Brussels on Thursday.

“I decided to abstain because this has always been my position,” Bartolo explained. “I am against war and against the use of weapons.”

How did you justify this choice to your group?

I would have wanted to hear about negotiations and diplomacy rather than war, all the more so if the NRRP is going to be used for arms production, which I absolutely don’t agree with. Like the whole Socialists and Democrats group and the PD delegation, I am on the side of Ukraine, but I have always tried to work to find a glimmer of possibility, an alternative path to death and devastation. I hope that Europe can begin to find a way to get negotiations started. Both our Constitution and the founding ideas of Europe tell us that this is the path.

People will accuse you of being an idealist.

I am proud to be a pacifist and also a “do-gooder,” if anyone wants to call me that. Being in favor of solidarity, welcoming and sharing responsibilities doesn’t mean using weapons, at any cost, to stop a war.

Do you think the munitions vote marks a turning point on this issue?

First of all, I hope there won’t be any military escalation. Continuing on this path will only lead to more disasters. Neither in the proposal that was voted on, nor on other occasions did I hear any mention of peace. Of course we stand with those who have been attacked! But a solution must be found. Look – six months ago we declared Russia a terrorist country. I voted against that proposal, precisely in order to leave a small opening for diplomacy and negotiations. And you should take into account that I have never hated anybody in my life, but I might say that I hate Putin a little bit.

Is there a risk that this is just one part of the shift of resources from the social to the military realm?

I hope that the funds we have fought so hard for in order to help member countries won’t really be used this way. I’d like to remind you that the cohesion funds that some disadvantaged regions need in order to catch up are also on the table. Among them is my own Sicily.

In a European context, and in view of next year’s elections, do you think your group should have taken a clearer position?

I want to say that no one in my delegation was told what to do. There was no form of pressure. We were free to vote according to our own convictions, and this is a test of democracy. Of course, if I voted a certain way, I hoped that my colleagues would stop chasing after others. After declaring Russia a terrorist country, we can’t negotiate anymore, but we can still look for third ways to stop the deaths and destruction of Ukraine. Europe should serve precisely to avoid such wars. Wars lead not only to death but also to migrations and enormous hardship for people who have to run away from their land. And I’m not just talking about Ukrainians here.

Is the climate of war fostering the emergence of an alternative majority of the Conservatives and Populars in the European Parliament? 

This right-wing drift can only do harm to Europe, which was supposed to be a federation. That dream is becoming ever more distant, which is why in the year we have left before the next European elections we must put the EU back on the high road of democracy and values, rejecting the pushes by countries that don’t respect rights – I’m talking about Hungary and Poland, but I fear for Italy too. We must avert this prospect by responding in the right way. And yes, certainly: the Socialists and Democrats bear a great responsibility in all of this.

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