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
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
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
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".