Below is the exclusive interview with the President of the Republic, Sergio Mattarella, to our Postenews magazine.
President Mattarella, the Republic will celebrate 75 years since the Constitution came into force. What kind of holiday is the 2nd June?
‘The 2nd June is the ‘feast of us Italians’, who chose and wanted the Republic. On 2 June 1946, over 89 per cent of those eligible to vote went to the polls in a country still heavily wounded by the war and by the other adventures that characterised the fascist regime. The Republic was preferred to the monarchy and acquired its concrete form with the Constitutional Charter, which was drafted by the Constituent Assembly elected on the same occasion as the institutional referendum – the Fathers and Mothers of our Republic. The recourse to universal male and female suffrage with free and secret votes was in itself an extraordinary integral moment of the new consciousness. The forms that regulate our coexistence are the declination of principles are found in the first part of the Constitution. The centrality of people, the recognition of their integrity and inviolability, the primacy of equality between human beings, dignity, freedom, solidarity, rights and duties characterise the democratic structure of the new state born from the Liberation. These are values that belong to all citizens. They are ours, and they live in society in the transition between generations and in the active participation in civic life.’
What does our Constitution tell us?
“Constitutionalism inspired by the Enlightenment included the right to the pursuit of happiness in the Charters. The preamble to the United States’ Declaration of Independence bears this inscription, which was suggested by a great Italian thinker, Gaetano Filangieri. From that beautiful reference – still present in some Constitutions – our Charter points to the right to work which, on closer inspection, is another path towards human dignity, made up of personal fulfilment and means of livelihood, on the road to happiness. This is a commitment included as an incipit in our Constitution and taken up in the first four articles with exceptional clarity and force. They are also articles full of hope and projected towards the new generations. They are articles and principles that indicate a permanent political, legislative and governmental action that succeeds in looking beyond what is immediate to design the best landing place for the younger generations. Work, the foundation of the Republic, is a goal that is still lacking for too many young people and women. There is a need to connect the transformations of economic models taking place due to technological evolution with the training needed to interpret them, to govern them in order to affirm the primacy of people against mere profit or domination logics’.
What can young people and women expect?
‘Young people must participate in the transformations taking place in the country and not be affected by them. Working in a country other than one’s own must be a choice and an opportunity to further one’s education. It cannot be a necessary escape.
Young people demand to be heard. They are the vital energy that needs to be quickly reintroduced into the engine of Italy. Article 3 of the Charter assigns the Republic the task of removing economic and social obstacles which, by effectively limiting the freedom and equality of citizens, prevent the full development of the human person and the effective participation of all workers in the political, economic and social organisation of the country. It is our interpretation of a right to happiness. As for women, there are old and new dynamics influencing their life choices. There are still obstacles to be removed to allow them full realisation in the working dimension and in private life. When the right of an individual is denied, it is the whole community that suffers. As long as there is one area that is de facto precluded to a woman, the principle of equality will be betrayed’.
So, democracy means listening…
‘Listening on the part of the institutions and participation on the part of citizens, including through the social entities that constitute the strength of contemporary civil societies. Conflict tends to prevail over dialogue at times and, what is even worse – a phenomenon that is not new but no less regrettable, aggravated today by the distorted use of social media – is the manifestation in the public dimension of expressions of hatred, which are even more disturbing if they are an expression of political struggle. Violence, even verbal violence, creates unfillable moats, it undermines and renders sterile any sense of community’.
For 75 years, the Constitution has guaranteed the exercise of the freedom of citizens and democratic participation.
‘The vitality of its principles has enabled the development of Italian society and will allow us to orient ourselves in the great transformations that are taking place in our time. The Constitutional Charter identifies the person as the subject to whom rights and duties are attributed. It is the matrix of the values of the Republic and the source to which we return whenever we need to redefine our vision. Democracy has become the norm in our community and is strengthened by its practice. Recently, the Italian people overcame the terrible ordeal of the pandemic by finding in solidarity – the cornerstone of our Constitution – the key to dealing with it. The concept of ‘us’ and the sense of community prevailed over isolation and powerlessness. On the morning of 25 April 2020 – Liberation Day – I visited the Vittoriano alone to pay my respects to the fallen soldiers and only removed my protective mask when the wreath was laid: in that moment, I tried to express the strength of an entire community. I was not alone’.
Our Constitution rejects war as an offence against the freedom of other peoples and as a a means for settling international disputes…
‘It is Article 11, which continues: ‘(Italy) consents, on equal terms with other States, to the limitations of sovereignty necessary for an order that ensures peace and justice among Nations; it promotes and encourages international organisations directed to that end’. Because peace is not just the ‘absence of war’, but a general project of coexistence between human beings that characterises the entire structure of the Constitution. It adheres to Kant’s ingenious idea of ‘perpetual peace’, not with an ‘exhortative spirit’ or for an aesthetic reason, but with cogent force, because human beings are exposed to frailty and passion, and only if they move in a spirit of concord and cooperation, can they overcome the real enemies that threaten them. Think of climate disruptions and famines, think of pandemics, such as those that have recently struck populations all over the world, think of the tragedy of ongoing conflicts’.
European integration is rooted in this.
‘European unity represents one of the most successful events in the history of our continent. Within the framework of and with the help of the European institutions, it has been possible to achieve the greatest social progress, guarantee democracy and a system of freedoms, and ensure a state of peace after the constant conflicts of previous centuries. In today’s context, where the size of the players is crucial on an international level, none of the individual countries belonging to the European Union would be able to play an effective role on its own. In times of crisis, we rediscover the values of the European founding pact to face emergencies together. Progress has been faster in difficult times even for the construction of the common house. The response to the pandemic was an example of this. In a globalised world, to say that no one save oneself alone is not a mere statement Next year, there will be elections to the European Parliament, an extraordinary opportunity for democracy for the citizens of twenty-seven countries. We ourselves are Europe’.
Poste Italiane played a role in holding the national community together.
‘This was also the case during the pandemic, when it contributed to the provision of essential services and the vaccination campaign. Last year, Poste Italiane celebrated one hundred and sixty years of activity: It has accompanied Italy in its evolution and development. It is part of our history. Over time, it has guaranteed communication and protected the savings of the Italian people. Organisational capillarity and the ability to innovate in the light of technological transformations guarantee services to all citizens and are vehicle for modernisation. The Polis project, which is based on the decision to keep post offices operational even in small municipalities, ensures that people can make use of the same services that are more easily accessible in cities. This is anything but secondary in Italy. Sixteen million of our fellow citizens live in towns scattered throughout our territory. Small villages in mountainous areas, inland areas and smaller islands are crucial for the harmonious development of the entire country. That is also where it will be possible to meet the challenge of the changes that characterise our time. Desertification must be countered and new opportunities for sustainable growth must be promoted. This is why services are crucial. After all, and this is just one example, start-ups for the new world can be set up wherever access to digitisation and quality of life is guaranteed’.