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,trade unions, political parties and names in the German language were allbanned. This forced Italianisation not only was the cause to a deep historicaltrauma and distrust for future Italian policies, but also increased Germannationalism.
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-speakinginhabitants within the framework of special provisions to safeguard theethnical character and 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 representativeGerman-speaking elements.
” 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 theminority’s. But this was for sure not an easy task, as the treaty had a lot ofmisleading wording in crucial parts and so the success of this treaty wasrelying on Italy’s good will and respect of the treaty. Furthermore, it wasunderstandable that Italy tried to get around this contract because Italiansdidn’t get what they most wanted from it, particularly Austrian abdication ofSouth Tyrol. For the Austrians, the fact that this was the second failedattempt in 30 years to obtain what they wanted for the South Tyrolese peopleled them to believe that an agreement was the only solution. Of course theywouldn’t renounce South Tyrol but instead they would make a temporary agreementwith Italy but in the Italians’ minds this meant that the territorial stabilityof an area where they were in minority would still be in danger. The result ofthis agreement was called the Autonomy Statute which was purely interpretive ofthe Paris-Agreement, and exceptionally applied.
Unfortunately, Italy broke the essenceof the agreement in a flash when they provided autonomous powers not to SouthTyrol alone, but instead to the complete autonomous region of Trentino-SouthTyrol, which included the Italian-speaking province of Trentino. This washeartlessly genius, German-speakers from South-Tyrol were outnumbered byItalian ones in the regional government, which controlled political economicaland regional matters while the Italian government continued the policies toindustrialise South Tyrol, which resulted in a growing number of Italianworkers. The German-speaking inhabitants that lived in the south were quick toreact with manifestations and public rallies using the slogan ‘Los vos Trient’which means liberation from Trento. In1955, the Allies, which had taken Austria out of Nazi control during the war,left and Austria regained its sovereignty. Shortly after Austria started aidingthe German-speakers in South Tyrol to obtain greater autonomy. Yet, all of Austria’s attempts to revive the De Gasperi-Gruber agreement – autonomyfor the province of South Tyrol alone, equal number of ethnicities in allpublic works and equality between the Italian and German languages – were refused by Italy using as justification that allof that was a domestic matter. Afteryears of pointless talks, Austria brought the long discussion regarding theimplementation of the South Tyrolean autonomy on the attention of the UnitedNations General Assembly. The sameGeneral Assembly encouraged all the parties involved to reopen negotiations to solveall discrepancies respecting the implementation of the agreement, that waymaking a clear statement that it was not exclusively an internal Italianaffair.