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In this article, the author sets out from a reconnaissance of the intellectual history of the concept of peace to discuss feasible conclusions for the European Union in the present situation of international relations. The first reference is to Kant’s perpetual peace project, a positive utopia that still conserves features of topical interest, especially in so far as it senses that peace is possible only among ‘republican’ – nowadays we would say democratic – states. The author goes on to examine economic pacifism (peace as the opening of markets), the ‘instrumental’ pacifism of Norberto Bobbio (substantiated in disarmament policies) and institutional pacifism (peace among democracies). Speaking of the idea that war is the root of all evil, he demonstrates how, with Gaudium et Spes, the Church too has adopted a conception of peace as an institutional construct. After September 11, he argues, it is possible to view and compare two models of peace: one based on the delicate equilibria of multipolarism and the other on the hegemony of the American superpower. If the first is to assert itself it is indispensable for Europe to assume greater tasks (and costs) on the global chequerboard.