Secretary-General, "Ambassador" to the EU, Umberto Vattani
Interview in Il Secolo XIX
September 17, 2001

Genoa: Yesterday morning Umberto Vattani was in Genoa to toast the success of the exhibition "Italian Artists of the 20th century at the Farnesina" – something he planned and strongly desired – on show in the renovated Harbour Station, and extended for another week following its huge success among public and critics alike.

But this cultural event did not mean that the issues regarding the dramatic international situation were put aside: on the contrary it offered the Italian "ambassador" to the EU an opportunity to address them.

QUESTION: Ambassador, can a toast in a place of art be a small antidote to great fear?

ANSWER: "A great antidote and above all an explicit way of affirming that these values, of art and of human intelligence, are there, they are alive, they are a testimony that now more than ever we all need. From this point of view, yes, even a cocktail to celebrate the success of an exhibition can help, when our hearts ache and there is great, widespread fear".

QUESTION: This is a concept that is comparable to the one expressed here by the sculptor Gio Pomodoro, who speaks of a sort of "militancy" of artists, called upon to keep a light shining when war, which is the destruction of everything, brings darkness. Can culture and the strength of intellectuals, therefore, be an alternative path to conflict?

ANSWER: "They are not enough, unfortunately, in the face of something that cancels out through its deeds the very existence of these concepts. That is why artists, and the world of culture as a whole, cannot fail to ask - in a situation like this - that someone defend them, those values, which are man's highest and noblest values, values to which they have given their talent, their work. For this reason, there must be unconditional condemnation and defence. Including, and above all, by the world of art, which in a certain sense is in turn in warfare: as a response to barbarity as a means to intellectually and spiritually raise people and lead them to compete on the level of the highest values, rather than with weapons and violence. Defence is not only of life, but also of civilisation, while terrorism places itself, in terms of its objectives and methods, outside of civilisation".

QUESTION: In other words, an armed response can also find motivated consensus in the world of culture, which can also refuse it on principle?

ANSWER: "Yes, because culture should be understood, just like ethical values and the nobler principles of life, as being one of the absolutely inviolable rights of every human being. Exactly like the right to live, to work, to be housed. That is to say, exactly like those inviolable rights for which it is right to fight, when there are people who want to limit them, or indeed destroy them".

QUESTION: There is a question that is on everyone's mind: how much will this defence cost, in terms of suffering? In three words: what will happen?

ANSWER: "What happened is horrendous. Too many dark zones lie behind Tuesday's attacks. These are moments that demand serious choices. A show of solidarity with the United States came from an immense number of countries. This is what is most striking in this dramatic situation. It is the confirmation that on all sides the same considerations were made, the same emotions felt before the violation of those elementary and vital rights, which no individual can renounce. Starting with the right to life, that was so horribly violated. All men, all men of good will, must realise that the right to exist cannot be breached by anybody".

QUESTION: The world is rapidly and laboriously assimilating the concept of a probable atypical war, the first of its kind, without parameters of reference in the past. And some people are wondering if in a war that is not fought between opposing armies, military type alliances, like NATO, have not suddenly become outdated. And shouldn't they hand over to other supranational organisations?

ANSWER: "There is a need for both kinds. Of unions among States, like the European Union, and of agreements for alliances. There are "partial", organisations, but there is also the UN: let's not forget that within the UN there is complete representativity, with the richest and most powerful countries side by side the smallest and poorest nations".