President Mario Draghi: Annual Award Dinner of the Appeal of Conscience Foundation

Rabbi Schneier,
Your Eminence Cardinal Parolin,
Your Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros,
Dr Kissinger,
Mr Schwarzman,
Distinguished guests,
Ladies and gentlemen,

Before I start, I should say that I’m really moved, I’m moved by all that’s been said tonight, this fantastic evening, your warmth, your applause, the words of Rabbi Schneier, the words of Steve Schwarzman and I should say especially the words of Dr Kissinger. I’m really moved by the fact that you took the time to come here on this occasion and say what you said; just the very fact that you are here tonight is a gift, an enormous present to me. Thank you. Our friendship started exactly thirty years ago, on that plane, and then it somehow grew throughout the years, even though we’ve seen each other quite sparsely. Recently, with the events that have been happening over the last twelve months, we’ve had the opportunity to have especially one deep conversation about what was happening – and that was just after a month of war I would say – what to do now, what to do next and how we should approach these autocracies; I’ll say something about that tonight too.

I am deeply grateful to receive this award and I would like to thank again Rabbi Schneier, the Appeal of Conscience Foundation and all of you for this honour.
You have awarded this prize to many great stateswomen and statesmen before me.
It is truly humbling to be in their company.

I would like to pay tribute to the late Shinzo Abe, who stood on this stage last year.
Abe was a strong believer in Japan’s duty to contribute to global stability.
He acted forcefully to reinvigorate the Japanese economy, through a combination of policies, called ‘Abenomics’: monetary policy, supply-side reforms, fiscal policies.
His life was, as we know, tragically cut short, but his legacy lives on – among the people of Japan and beyond.

The importance of dialogue – which we celebrate tonight – has been squarely at the centre of my professional life as an economist and as a policymaker.
The value of a successful partnership between multilateral bodies and local institutions was one of the main lessons I learnt while working at the World Bank in the 1980s.
Rewriting the rules of global finance – as we did on the Financial Stability Board in the wake of the 2008 crisis – required mutual trust, open-mindedness and the ability to compromise.
The European project, which has granted peace and stability in Europe after centuries of conflicts, hinges on the strength of shared institutions such as the European Central Bank.
The G20, which Italy presided over last year, confirmed that only global cooperation can help to solve global problems from the pandemic to climate change.

The potential for mutual understanding to be a force for good is larger the more integrated our world.
To be successful for everyone, and especially the most vulnerable, globalisation demands a joint set of rules.
And yet, today we face a significant challenge to the idea that we can work together for the benefit of all countries.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine risks ushering in a new age of polarisation – one we have not seen since the end of the Cold War.
The question of how we deal with autocracies will define our ability to shape our common future for many years to come.

The solution lies in a combination of frankness, coherence and engagement.
We must be clear and vocal about the founding values of our societies.
I am referring to our belief in democracy and the rule of law, our respect for human rights, our commitment to global solidarity.
These ideals should guide our foreign policy in a clear and predictable, and I underline predictable, manner.
When we draw a red line, we must enforce it.
When we make a pledge, we must honour it.
Autocracies thrive on exploiting our hesitancy.
We should avoid ambiguity, not to regret it later.
Finally, we must be willing to cooperate, so long as it does not mean compromising on our core principles.
This week marks the 77th United Nations General Assembly.
I hope there will be a future when Russia decides to return to the very norms it subscribed to in 1945.

For all the gloominess of the times we live in, I remain, cautiously or not, optimistic about the future.
The heroism of Ukraine, of President Zelensky and of his people, is a powerful reminder of what we stand for, of what we stand to lose.
The European Union and the G7 – together with our allies – have remained firm and united in support of Ukraine, in spite of Moscow’s attempts to divide us.
Our collective quest for peace continues – as shown by the deal to unblock millions of tonnes of cereals from the ports of the Black Sea.
Only Ukraine can decide which peace is acceptable, but we must do all we can to favour an agreement when it finally becomes possible.

In a divided world, the role of religious leaders and of the institutions you lead is essential.
For all your differences, you champion peace, solidarity, human dignity.
Your knowledge, your wisdom and your faith can guide us and help us heal.
You can reach across borders, speak to our collective conscience and to the soul of individuals.
You can show the way forward through dialogue – build new bridges where old ones have collapsed.
And, you can hold us to account.

As I was reminded during my recent visit to Yad Vashem, indifference is the worst foe of humanity.
Speaking out is not only a moral obligation – it is a civic duty.
To those who demand silence, submission and obedience we must oppose the power of words – and, if need be, of deeds.
Today the world needs courage and clarity, but also hope and love.
Thank you.

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