Commentary. Mattarella called for ‘an international forum that would give firm roots to peace once again’ in peace, security and cooperation.

To stop the war, a new Helsinki conference for peace

The initiative to promote an international conference to guarantee peace and security among nations is intended, first of all, to call the international community (and Europe and Italy) back to their real responsibilities, to their duties that cannot be delegated. It is a proposal animated by the impulse to stop the escalation of war, the madness of war, which now seems to dominate the behavior of the world’s most powerful, but also the public debate, fully occupying our minds.

We don’t want to reopen the controversy on the sending of weapons. We have taken note of the decision taken almost unanimously by the Italian Parliament and endorsed by the government; we will only say that this cannot be the solution. If we rely on this exclusively, it would mean renouncing the pursuit of peaceful and stable international relations. War by proxy is not a conceivable future. We do not want to shift the responsibility for war onto the victims, nor to entrust our common peaceful future to their hands alone. We do not want to look the other way, but instead we want to go to the roots of the evil that has led to the degeneration and inhumanity of this armed conflict.

For those who want to uphold the value of rejecting war, the only possible way is to let lawfulness speak once more. Because after the tragedy of the Second World War, it was precisely lawfulness that showed us the path that we’re having a hard time recognizing today, blinded as we are by the shine of weapons systems, paralyzed before the horror of the massacres, overwhelmed by the dead, unable to explain the pandemonium and the continuing offense against human dignity.

We should go back to the principles of lawfulness, also because we are convinced that there is no such thing as a just war. But there is just law. Such as that which can be found in our Constitution, but also that of the international order, written after the tragedy of the Holocaust and the use of two nuclear bombs “in the service of peace.”

This is why we should first of all avoid fanciful or creative interpretations of the constitutional text. These interpretations can sometimes come even from authoritative figures, but are no less bizarre and inappropriate for it. Our Constitution explicitly “repudiates war” as a means of resolving international disputes, in every scenario. And the limitations to sovereign will that it sets out are expressly aimed at ensuring peace and justice among nations and upholding the international organizations created for this purpose. Thus, they are limitations to promote peace, not to participate in any wars – neither our own nor those of others.

We are thus called to look for other ways to ensure peace among nations. Are we doing that? This is a dramatic question that is troubling the consciences of many people. Pope Francis expressed it in clear terms, in words with which we fully agree: “And while we are witnessing a macabre regression of humanity, I wonder, along with so many anguished people, if peace is truly being sought; whether there is the will to avoid a continued military and verbal escalation; whether everything possible is being done to silence the weapons. I beg you, let us not surrender to the logic of violence, to the perverse spiral of weapons. May the path of dialogue and peace be taken!”

The “sacred” duty of defending the homeland has also been invoked, out of its proper context. Article 52 of our Constitutional Charter is expressly addressed to the “Italian citizen,” legitimizing war in defense of the internal border. Furthermore, it must be read in conjunction with the whole system of defense that our Constitution has outlined: a war must be deliberated on by the national Parliament, followed by the conferral of “necessary powers” on the government and a formal declaration of the state of war by the President, with the possible extension by law of the duration of Parliament. None of these conditions apply now: the Constitution cannot be invoked to legitimize involvement in armed conflict.

Rather than reinterpreting the Constitution with an aim to distort its pacifist structure, we should rather refer to the Charter of the UN, the international organization – however impotent today – whose purpose is precisely to ensure peace among Nations. It is enough to read, and then decide to abide by, the commitments made by “We, the peoples of the United Nations” to avoid many unnecessary and unpleasant controversies between the tireless defenders of achieving peace through war and the critical voices, who are being accused by the former of having become unlikely neo-Putinists.

It is the UN charter that tells us who is responsible for the war under international law, who is entitled to exercise the legitimate right of resistance against the aggressor, and what are the duties of non-belligerent states. The responsibility for the war is to be attributed to Russia, for violation of Article 2, item 4, which requires states to refrain from the use of force and not operate against the territorial integrity or independence of any other state, while Ukrainian resistance is legitimate according to the principle of individual or collective self-protection as indicated in Article 51.

The other states are certainly also involved in the “dispute,” since no country can consider itself isolated from the rising tide of war: however, according to articles 33 and 52 of the Charter, they must first of all pursue a solution through negotiations, regional agreements or other peaceful means of their choice.

If war is to be brought to an end, the peace must come with guarantees. This is the task and responsibility of the international community. President Mattarella affirmed this principle in a decisive manner when he urged everyone to set up “an international forum that would give firm roots to peace once again, that would restore dignity to a framework of security and cooperation, following the example of the Helsinki Conference which led, in 1975, to a Final Act that heralded positive developments.”

In order to put an end to the conflict and to guarantee a future of peace and security among nations, in order not to abandon the victims of the war, we cannot put our trust in the force of arms. Instead, what is needed is to set politics in motion, to put the logic of power back into play, to give voice to lawfulness, to secure justice among nations. Because there is no peace without justice.

On Thursday, in Rome, the initiative “For a peace solution” took place. At noon, a press conference was held in Rome, at the FNSI headquarters at 349 Corso Vittorio Emanuele II, promoted by the Center for State Reform, the Basso Foundation and the Alternative per il Socialismo magazine. The speakers were the constitutional scholars Gaetano Azzariti, Claudio De Fiores and Luigi Ferrajoli. Some proposals that could lead to a ceasefire and an end to the war in Ukraine were discussed.

Italy must work so that the EU would convene a conference, involving the UN, all states and world powers, to agree on a new treaty on international security and cooperation in Europe and the world. If negotiations are entrusted to the belligerent countries alone, it is inevitable that they will be based on existing power relations.

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