Volume #21 - 515.|
EUROPE AND THE SOVIET UNION
ITALY: PEACE TREATY
Memorandum from Under-Secretary of State for External Affairs|
to Secretary of State for External Affairs
April 22nd, 1955|
ITALIAN DENUNCIATION OF ITALIAN PEACE TREATY|
The Italian Ambassador informed me on April 21 that his Government intends to denounce the Peace Treaty (except those clauses relating to territorial and economic matters) at the same time as it deposits the instrument of ratification of the Western European Union in Brussels next week. The Ambassador was not in a position to tell us the reasons which had motivated his Government's decision.
2. After the signature of the Italian Peace Treaty in 1947, the Italian Government on a number of occasions expressed a desire for revision of certain articles which stigmatized or imposed permanent restrictions on Italy. In 1951 the Italians raised the question of revision of the Treaty with all the signatories. Most of the nations concerned were in favour of removing obstacles to cooperation with Italy on an equal footing, but the Soviet Union and the satellites would not agree to revision unless Italy withdrew from NATO. In these circumstances, the United Kingdom, the United States and France suggested to the Italians that de facto revision might be achieved by a declaration of the signatories that they no longer considered certain clauses of the Treaty to be operative. On October 4, 1951, you informed a press conference that Canada would give sympathetic consideration to any approach from the Italian Government on this question.21 On December 8, 1951, the Italians delivered notes to all the signatories asking agreement that the preamble and certain articles of the Treaty should be considered obsolete. Canada and most of the other signatories replied in identical terms. Our reply stated:
"The government of Canada agrees that the spirit reflected by the preamble of the peace treaty no longer exists and has been replaced by the spirit of the United Nations Charter and that the political clauses of the treaty, articles 15-18, are superfluous. The government of Canada also agrees that the military clauses of the treaty are not consistent with Italy's position as an equal member of the democratic and freedom-loving family of nations and hereby releases Italy from its obligations to Canada under articles 46-70 and annexes relevant thereto".
3. When the Paris Agreements were debated in the Italian Chamber of Deputies, the Neo-Fascist Party presented a draft resolution asking for revocation of the Peace Treaty. The Foreign Minister, Sr. Martino, accepted the motion as a recommendation in the following terms: "In practice, Italy is present in the sphere of international life in the fullness of its sovereignty. We could ask and certainly will decide to ask ... for a more explicit recognition of our equality or rights, so that no shadow of the past may cloud the future, but I should like to point out ... that one does not become equal to others by decree or concession, and that each people succeeds in playing in the history of the world that role which it achieves by virtue of its efforts." Martino's intention was no doubt to persuade the right-wing parties to vote in favour of the Paris Agreements and there was subsequently no indication that the Italian Government contemplated any further step.
4. It is difficult to see what practical advantages the Italians hope to gain by denouncing the Treaty because those parts of the Treaty which are objectionable to them are to all intents and purposes inoperative in view of the de facto revision achieved by the exchange of notes in 1951. In principle we find it difficult to approve of a unilateral denunciation of an international engagement and the precedent might well prove unfortunate. The Italian action is hardly likely to increase that country's international prestige and the denunciation would probably make more difficult the eventual entry of Italy into the United Nations. Furthermore, the timing of this step seems somewhat inopportune when negotiations for a peace treaty with Austria are well under way and when plans are being made for negotiations with the Soviet Union which would touch on the question of a peace treaty with Germany. The principal Italian objections to the Treaty seem to be psychological and the advantages which the Italian Government sees in denouncing it at this time appear to be internal.
5. The Peace Treaty has been a continuing source of irritation to Italians because of the inferior international status it confers upon Italy. It is popularly known as the "diktat" and the Monarchists and Neo-Fascist Parties never miss an opportunity to remind Italians of the inequality and inferiority it imposes. Italy's international prestige is an important plank in the Christian Democratic Party platform, and Prime Minister Scelba's visits to London, Ottawa and Washington have drawn public attention to Italy's foreign relations. Public interest in Italy's international position was demonstrated by the enthusiasm with which Sir Winston Churchill's statement that Italy had regained her position as a great power, was greeted. In addition, in view of the prospect of restored sovereignty in neighbouring Austria, there may be considerable public pressure in Italy for an overt act to eliminate any vestige of Italian inferiority.
6. The Italian Government must submit its resignation to the new President of Italy who will be inaugurated on May 12. Considering the unsuitability of the present coalition of Christian Democrats, Liberals and Social Democrats, the offer of resignation might be accepted. In recent weeks there has been a good deal of political manoeuvering and Sr. Scelba may be taking this step to curry favour with the Neo-Fascists and Monarchists as a counteraction to recent negotiations between the Nenni-Socialists and Sr. Fanfani, Political Secretary and left-wing spokesman of the Christian Democratic Party.
7. Italy has frequently expressed anxiety over the possibility of a Franco-German axis developing once Germany's sovereignty is restored and this uneasiness is particularly profound in the economic field. It is difficult to imagine what difference denunciation of a treaty which is largely inoperative would make but the Italians may feel that this kind of an assertion of sovereign equality would buttress their position. There is a still more remote possibility that the United States may have inspired this step in an attempt to throw the Russians on the defensive once more on the Austrian and German questions but this appears to be extremely unlikely.
8. The Italian plan is most easily explained in the context of Sr. Martino's undertaking to the Chamber of Deputies, coupled with possible advantages in internal political manoeuvering. We wonder whether the Italian Government might consider this obligation to the Chamber of Deputies would have been met if the reaction of friendly signatories was unfavourable and the Government decided that denunciation at this time was not desirable.
9. We had considered the possibility that the Italians might agree to change from an outright denunciation of the Treaty to a request to all signatories to declare that they considered the Treaty no longer applicable, as was done in December 1951. It might well be, however, that the Italian Government have decided on denunciation in order to strengthen their hand internally, and nothing less than an outright denunciation would satisfy the nationalists.
10. We can hardly take a decision on the question of whether or not to urge reconsideration on the Italians until we hear from London, Washington and Rome. If the Big Three are not prepared to oppose the move, then we can hardly do so alone. We will prepare a further memorandum as soon as more information has been received from Rome, Paris, London and Washington.
11. In the meantime our missions in London and Paris, whom we asked for local reactions, have reported that no Italian approach had been made to the United Kingdom or French Governments. We have as yet no explanation for this, since we took it for granted that the Italians would have notified the French and British.