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Opinion

Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy / Vice-President of the European Commission

Prior to the A-bomb anniversary on August 6, Stéphane Dion, Minister of Foreign Affairs Canada, and Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the European Commission, who both attended the G7 Hiroshima Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in Hiroshima in April, in advance of the Group of Seven (G7) summit (Ise Shima summit), sent responses to a written interview. They were asked how they felt about their visit to Hiroshima on April 11, touching the devastating consequences of the atomic bombing, and what they thought of U.S. President Barack Obama’s visit to Hiroshima in May.

(Question)How did you feel when you visited the A-bomb Dome?

(Answer) It was such a strong experience, for so many reasons. I have always put non-proliferation and disarmament among my core commitments, but I had never been to Hiroshima before. I had read so much, and seen so many videos and pictures. But when you stand in front of the Dome, and you see the destruction with your own eyes, it is a whole different experience. You look at the dome’s wreckage, and you wonder how it has survived the destruction. But it still stands up, as a testimony of what happened in Hiroshima, to keep the memory alive for the new generations.

(Q)What feelings did you have when you laid a wreath at the Cenotaph for the A-bomb victims in Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park?

(A)This was the first time ever that the G7 gathered in Hiroshima: it was such an honour and a privilege for me to represent Europe in a ceremony where the whole world paid respect to the victims, and promised “never again.” There is a moment in particular that I won’t forget: we were greeted by a group of young kids, who gave us garlands made of origami. While looking at these young people, I think we all realised how important it is to make sure that the next generations can pass and preserve the memory of what happened in Hiroshima. On the mistakes of the past we can build a present of cooperation and a future of peace.

(Q)Were there any exhibits in the museum that made an especially deep impression on you?

(A)I would say, as a mother, the tricycle of a four-year-old boy who was playing not far from the spot where the bomb exploded, and died the very same night of the attack.

(Q)Do you think that nuclear weapons are inhumane? Did your idea about this change after you visited Hiroshima?

(A)The pilot who dropped the bomb on Hiroshima noted down in the plane’s official log: “My God, what have we done?” Our human conscience can’t stand so much violence and destruction. And yet, human beings like us created a weapon that can destroy the whole of mankind. Hiroshima reminds us of this great contradiction, and it is a call to action. For policy-makers, there is a daily choice to make – between following the worst human instincts and cultivating the best part of our nature; between leaving things as they stand, and working hard for peace, for disarmament, for a world free of weapons of mass destruction.

(Q)How will you translate your experience of visiting Hiroshima into action, especially in areas of peace building and nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation?

(A)In Hiroshima the G7 signed on a common statement on non-proliferation and disarmament, which shows the way ahead. We will continue to work for the universalisation of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, and for the entry into force of the Comprehensive Test-Ban Treaty: this is something I am particularly keen on, as a member of the “Group of Eminent Persons” who focus on advancing the CTBT ratification and entry into force. It is also encouraging that the international community and the UN Security Council was united in its response to the latest tests by North Korea. After the historic deal on Iran’s nuclear programme, we should try and keep the momentum towards concrete steps forward on non-proliferation and disarmament.

(Q)How do you evaluate President Obama’s visit to Hiroshima and the content of the speech he made there? Do you think his visit and speech will provide a tailwind for advancing toward a world without nuclear weapons?

(A)His visit wasn’t just immensely symbolic. In his speech in Hiroshima, Barack Obama laid down a vision that can and should live on after his presidency. He reminded us that our technological progress has to be coupled with progress in human institutions: as weapons get more lethal, and our world becomes more dangerous, we need to strengthen our global governance, our rules, the institutions of a cooperative world order. But he also pointed at the need to never lower the bar of our aspirations: the goal of a world without nuclear weapons might look impossible to achieve, and we might not achieve it in our lifetime. But as President Obama said, “persistent effort can roll back the possibility of catastrophe.” I can only hope the next US president will share his same commitment and build on the achievements of the last eight years, such as the New START Treaty with Russia and our deal with Iran.

(Q)During your visit to Hiroshima, you did not have the opportunity to listen to an A-bomb’s survivor’s account. Please write down a message to survivors.

(A)I had the opportunity to meet one hibakusha a few years ago, when I was a member of Parliament in my own country, and to listen to his story. It is something I will never forget, the best possible testimony of what is at stake in our work on non-proliferation. The story of Hiroshima and of its people is not simply about devastation, and death. It is also a story of reconstruction, of a new beginning: the pain for what was lost has turned into a call for action, and into the hope for a better future. My hope – and my personal promise – is that the memory will not fade, even when the voices of hibakusha will no longer be with us.

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