Sample donated: Michael Long
Last updated: May 17, 2019
Todaytwo surrounding autonomous provinces in the north of Italy, South Tyrol andTrentino constitute an autonomous region called Trentino-Alto.
Before 1919 bothprovinces belonged to the Austrian-Hungarian empire’s region of Tyrol. Even under Austrian control Trentino(Southern) wasalways completely Italian-speaking, while South Tyrol was practically populatedwith German-speaking inhabitants (‘South Tyrolese’ is still used today to referto the local German speakers). With the end of World War I, Trentino and SouthTyrol were integrated into the Italian state by the 1919 Peace Treaty of Saint Germain despite the vast majority ofGerman-speaking inhabitants in South Tyrol. Inthe succeeding years the Italian government issued executive decrees andlegislation that subjected the inhabitants of South Tyrol to forcedItalianisation, in an attempt to end the presence and influence ofGerman-speakers economically politically and in cultural life, and so schools, tradeunions, political parties and names in the German language were all banned. Thisforced Italianisation not only was the cause to a deep historical trauma anddistrust for future Italian policies, but also increased German nationalism. AfterGermany took over Austria in 1938, Hitler and Mussolini agreed in offering theGerman-speakers of South Tyrol the options of German citizenship in thecondition that they would emigrate and resettle in the German empire otherwisethey would have to accept the Italianisation. 85% percent chose to resettle inGermany but only about one third truly left during the times of war and thevast majority of those returned right after 1945. Inthe end of World War II a peace conference took place in Paris where the Alliesemphasize on the autonomy for South Tyrol, to be negotiated by both parts,Italy and Austria.
When invited to the conference to submit its view on thepeace treaty that was going to be discussed with Italy the Austrian governmentasked the South Tyrolean People’s Party – the overall representation of theGerman-speakers in South Tyrol ever since – to send 3 representatives as consultantsin order to make sure that any agreement would have international guarantees. Fromthose negotiations was born the 1946 DeGasperi-Gruber agreement between Austria and Italy, named after two foreignministers, Alcide De Gasperi and Karl Gruber, also known as The Paris Treaty. Thistreaty defends and makes sure:1. “German-speaking inhabitantswill be assured complete equality of rights with the Italian-speaking inhabitantswithin the framework of special provisions to safeguard the ethnical characterand the cultural and economic development of the German- Speaking element.”2.
“Thepopulations will be granted the exercise of an autonomous legislative andexecutive regional power. The frame within the said provisions of autonomy willapply, will be drafted in consultation also with local representative German-speakingelements.” This agreement was the foundation fornegotiations on autonomy and Austria’s interest to reach what was on theagreement because they wanted to work as a ‘protecting power’ for the minority’s.But this was for sure not an easy task, as the treaty had a lot of misleadingwording in crucial parts and so the success of this treaty was relying on Italy’sgood will and respect of the treaty. Furthermore, it was understandable thatItaly tried to get around this contract because Italians didn’t get what theymost wanted from it, particularly Austrian abdication of South Tyrol.
For theAustrians, the fact that this was the second failed attempt in 30 years toobtain what they wanted for the South Tyrolese people led them to believe that anagreement was the only solution. Of course they wouldn’t renounce South Tyrolbut instead they would make a temporary agreement with Italy but in theItalians’ minds this meant that the territorial stability of an area where theywere in minority would still be in danger. The result of this agreement was calledthe Autonomy Statute which was purely interpretive of the Paris-Agreement, and exceptionallyapplied.