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The University of Trieste today awarded the honorary Master’s Degree in Law to the President of the Republic Sergio Mattarella and to Borut Pahor, former President of the Republic of Slovenia, two personalities who are contributing to writing the history of the Adriatic border.

The motivation for the double award is, in fact, the policy of reconciliation pursued by the two Presidents, which has made the eastern border area, scarred by the wounds of 20th century history, an example of cooperation between peoples bound by their common membership to the European Union.

This is the motivation: ‘Sergio Mattarella and Borut Pahor courageously repudiated the narrow perspective of nationalistic egoism to pursue instead a policy of reconciliation, based on the creation and consolidation of spaces and symbols dedicated to collective memory, as the foundation of authentic peace among peoples. These two statesmen interpreted the love for their homelands with high European values at heart, helping to transform the Adriatic border from a territory afflicted by harsh ethnic and cultural conflict to a space of dialogue, cooperation and friendship, in the common awareness of human rights and in the light of democratic freedoms.

The text of the motivation was read out in Italian by Prof. Gian Paolo Dolso, Head of the Department of Legal, Language, Interpretation and Translation Sciences (IUSLIT) of the University of Trieste, which proposed the double awarding of honorary degrees. The Slovenian version was entrusted to Professor Tereza Pertot.

Professors Davide Rossi and Fabio Spitaleri read out the two laudations.

‘Our University’s task is to build bridges, not walls; to make a concrete contribution to the social, cultural and ethical growth of new generations,’ explained Roberto Di Lenarda, Rector of the University of Trieste. ‘In a historical moment like this one, marked by war scenarios, universities are open to everyone, they are inclusive, they protect and support above all the weakest among us, but universities must also be granted autonomy in choosing their collaborators to produce science and develop human and social culture.’

‘Science is produced by doing research, and this involves both cooperation and competition with other universities and research bodies. Together, we progress hand in hand, supporting the most advanced minds and souls, even in suffering societies,’ the Rector continued, calling for a balanced and rational management of the tension that agitates Italian universities.

The ceremony began in the University’s Main Hall, in the presence of the University Rector, the academic community, civil, military, diplomatic and religious authorities, and students.

Set in the broader context of the enlargement of the European Union to the Western Balkans and the political and diplomatic action carried out by the two Heads of State and their predecessors Giorgio Napolitano and Danilo Turk, today’s celebration confirms the role of the University of Trieste as a place of exchange and dialogue and constitutes a new opportunity for the two Presidents to meet, showing a solid relationship that has continued even after Pahor’s term of office ended.

Over the years, in fact, there have been numerous initiatives involving Mattarella and Pahor, such as the ceremony ‘Europe as a place for overcoming conflicts’ on the centenary of the union of Gorizia with Italy on 26 October 2016 and the meeting on 21 October 2021 to celebrate the joint designation of Gorizia and Nova Gorica as ‘European Capital of Culture 2025’, a recognition destined to increase the sense of union of the two cities, which were divided by barbed wire until thirty years ago.

Also to be remembered as a fundamental moment in the new season of relations between Italy and Slovenia, a model of cooperation for the European continent, is the bilateral meeting in Trieste on 13th July 2020, with the Presidents’ homage to the sites symbolic of the tragedies of totalitarianism.

This is not the first time that the University of Trieste has conferred an honorary degree to a President of the Republic: we remember Luigi Einaudi on 4 November 1954, on the occasion of Trieste’s return under Italian sovereignty, and Antonio Segni in 1963, on the threshold of the establishment and launch of the Special Statute Region.

The ceremony was enriched by the performance of the Italian, Slovenian and European anthems by the Choir and Orchestra of the University of Trieste, conducted by Riccardo Cossi.

At the end of the ceremony, the University’s centenary anthem ‘Sorprendi la sorte’, with lyrics by Marcela Serli, was also performed.