The Slovenia Times

Trieste University honours Pahor and Mattarella

Former Slovenian President Borut Pahor (left) and Italian President Sergio Mattarella (right) receive honorary doctorates from the University of Trieste. Photo: Daniel Novakovič/STA

The University of Trieste has honoured Italian President Sergio Mattarella and former Slovenian President Borut Pahor with honorary doctorates for their reconciliation efforts and for standing up against the narrow-mindedness of nationalist egotism.

The university in the Italian city, located near the border with Slovenia, said that reconciliation policy aims "to create and consolidate a space and symbols for nurturing collective memory, which is the foundation of genuine coexistence between peoples".

It praised Pahor and Mattarella as the statesmen who contributed to the transformation of the Adriatic border from a zone of ethnic and cultural disputes into a space of dialogue, cooperation and friendship.

Pahor accepted the honour at a ceremony on 12 April with what he said was great humility. What means to him in particular is that he received it together with his friend Mattarella.

He is aware that his achievements in the pursuit of reconciliation are rooted in "many generations of Slovenian and Italian democratic patriots".

The pair's most remarkable joint gesture was when they visited two memorials in Basovizza in July 2020, when National Hall in Trieste was returned to the Slovenian minority. One commemorates the victims of communist post-WWII killings and the other four Slovenian anti-fascists.

"This gesture was not urgent. It was even risky because it defied the firmly rooted prejudices between the two ethnic communities," said Pahor, who served as president between 2012 and 2022.

He said that most Italians and Slovenians respectively walked by the Slovenian memorial and the foibe memorial without giving them due attention.

And the indifference was even more striking after a report on Slovenian-Italian relations was published in 2000 by the Slovenian-Italian commission of historians.

He cited two findings from the report - one is that the most lasting effect of fascism was that Slovenians equated Italy and fascism.

The other is that pro-Italian residents of the Venezia Giulia region experienced the brief Yugoslav occupation as the darkest moment in their history.

Mattarella said the visit proved that what united the two nations today was stronger than what used to divide them.

The university's rector Roberto Di Lenarda wished for Mattarella and Pahor to continue to enlighten European leaders and inspire new generations.

The event was part of the university's centenary celebrations. Professor Fabio Spitalieri, one of the initiators of the honorary doctorates, said it signals the university's pledge about its course for the next 100 years.


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