2-From unions, political parties and names in the German

2-From Conflict to
Compromise

Today
two surrounding autonomous provinces in the north of Italy, South Tyrol and
Trentino constitute an autonomous region called Trentino-Alto. Before 1919 both
provinces belonged to the Austrian-Hungarian empire’s region of Tyrol. Even under Austrian control Trentino(Southern) was
always completely Italian-speaking, while South Tyrol was practically populated
with German-speaking inhabitants (‘South Tyrolese’ is still used today to refer
to the local German speakers). With the end of World War I, Trentino and South
Tyrol were integrated into the Italian state by the 1919 Peace Treaty of Saint Germain despite the vast majority of
German-speaking inhabitants in South Tyrol.                                                                                           In
the succeeding years the Italian government issued executive decrees and
legislation that subjected the inhabitants of South Tyrol to forced
Italianisation, in an attempt to end the presence and influence of
German-speakers economically politically and in cultural life, and so schools,
trade unions, political parties and names in the German language were all
banned. This forced Italianisation not only was the cause to a deep historical
trauma and distrust for future Italian policies, but also increased German
nationalism.               After
Germany took over Austria in 1938, Hitler and Mussolini agreed in offering the
German-speakers of South Tyrol the options of German citizenship in the
condition that they would emigrate and resettle in the German empire otherwise
they would have to accept the Italianisation. 85% percent chose to resettle in
Germany but only about one third truly left during the times of war and the
vast majority of those returned right after 1945.              

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In
the end of World War II a peace conference took place in Paris where the Allies
emphasize 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 the
peace treaty that was going to be discussed with Italy the Austrian government
asked the South Tyrolean People’s Party – the overall representation of the
German-speakers in South Tyrol ever since – to send 3 representatives as consultants
in order to make sure that any agreement would have international guarantees. From
those negotiations was born the 1946 De
Gasperi-Gruber agreement between Austria and Italy, named after two foreign
ministers, Alcide De Gasperi and Karl Gruber, also known as The Paris Treaty. This
treaty defends and makes sure:

1.     “German-speaking inhabitants
will be assured complete equality of rights with the Italian-speaking
inhabitants within the framework of special provisions to safeguard the
ethnical character and the cultural and economic development of the German-
Speaking element.”

2.    
“The
populations will be granted the exercise of an autonomous legislative and
executive regional power. The frame within the said provisions of autonomy will
apply, will be drafted in consultation also with local representative
German-speaking elements.”                                       

 

This agreement was the foundation for
negotiations on autonomy and Austria’s interest to reach what was on the
agreement 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
misleading wording in crucial parts and so the success of this treaty was
relying on Italy’s good will and respect of the treaty. Furthermore, it was
understandable that Italy tried to get around this contract because Italians
didn’t get what they most wanted from it, particularly Austrian abdication of
South Tyrol. For the Austrians, the fact that this was the second failed
attempt in 30 years to obtain what they wanted for the South Tyrolese people
led them to believe that an agreement was the only solution. Of course they
wouldn’t renounce South Tyrol but instead they would make a temporary agreement
with Italy but in the Italians’ minds this meant that the territorial stability
of an area where they were in minority would still be in danger. The result of
this agreement was called the Autonomy Statute which was purely interpretive of
the Paris-Agreement, and exceptionally applied.

 

Unfortunately, Italy broke the essence
of the agreement in a flash when they provided autonomous powers not to South
Tyrol alone, but instead to the complete autonomous region of Trentino-South
Tyrol, which included the Italian-speaking province of Trentino. This was
heartlessly genius, German-speakers from South-Tyrol were outnumbered by
Italian ones in the regional government, which controlled political economical
and regional matters while the Italian government continued the policies to
industrialise South Tyrol, which resulted in a growing number of Italian
workers. The German-speaking inhabitants that lived in the south were quick to
react with manifestations and public rallies using the slogan ‘Los vos Trient’
which means liberation from Trento.

           In
1955, the Allies, which had taken Austria out of Nazi control during the war,
left and Austria regained its sovereignty. Shortly after Austria started aiding
the German-speakers in South Tyrol to obtain greater autonomy. Yet, all of Austria’s attempts to revive the De Gasperi-Gruber agreement – autonomy
for the province of South Tyrol alone, equal number of ethnicities in all
public works and equality between the Italian and German languages – were refused by Italy using as justification that all
of that was a domestic matter.

           After
years of pointless talks, Austria brought the long discussion regarding the
implementation of the South Tyrolean autonomy on the attention of the United
Nations General Assembly. The same
General Assembly encouraged all the parties involved to reopen negotiations to solve
all discrepancies respecting the implementation of the agreement, that way
making a clear statement that it was not exclusively an internal Italian
affair.

           The
stress and pressure to reach a solution increased on both sides and Italy’s
government created a diversified commission where both parts could take the
floor and defend their ideas, this commission had 19 members (11 Italians, 7
South Tyrolese and 1 Ladin Speaker) and their main objective was to collect proposals
to tackle the issue of autonomy using has support the Gasperi-Gruber agreement.

 The result of this commission was not
satisfactory but it turned out to be the basis for negotiations along the years
to come between all the parts involved . Also, the fact that Italy was back
then in a more receptive and tolerant climate with the centre-left governments
boosted the negotiations and led to the creation of a compromise in the year of
1969.

 

3-Substance and Status of
the Compromise

 

The name given to this compromise was ‘The Package of
measures in favour of the population of South Tyrol’, hereafter in this essay
referred to as ‘The Package’. It consisted in 137 administrative and
legislative measures the Italian government was willing to adopt in order to expand
and reform the South Tyrolean autonomy. The large share of those measures were already
in the Autonomy Statute of 1948, which gave name to and resulted in the
adoption of the Second Autonomy Statute. The compromise also introduces a
calendar with 18 operational stages for implementation with a fixed deadline
for each stage. The goal with this calendar was that Austria could finally
declare before the UN that the agreement over the achievement of the De
Gasperi-Gruber was resolved and the subject therefore sealed.                                                                                                               Both
the Package and operational calendar were approved by the parliaments of Italy
and Austria. The strength of the South Tyrolean German-speakers together with
Austria’s backup made it unnecessary to make a referendum in order to reach a compromise,
which would probably have created dividing barriers within the ethnic groups, split
the population and reminded the recent past agreements that never worked.

           The
main foundations of the Package are:

–      
“the
creation of two autonomous provinces (South Tyrol and Trentino) within the
autonomous region of Trentino-South Tyrol, to which broad legislative and administrative
powers will be granted that were previously reserved for the state or the
region”;

–      
“the
application of the principles of ethnic proportionality and linguistic parity
to employment in all state and semi-state bodies in the autonomous province of
South-Tyrol, with the exception of the jurisdiction of the ministry of defence
and the national police forces”.

Italy
was clear making sure that its international obligations regarding the South
Tyrolean autonomy had already been fulfilled but this implementation of the De
Gasperi-Gruber agreement was unsatisfactory to them, and insisted that further resolutions
of these problems should be of internal concern only. They wanted to exclude Austria
from any intervention in the future, but it comes with no surprise that Austria
did not agree with this selfish view, however, as an act to show goodwill, they
accepted the adoption of this political compromise. Although the agreement was
not as strong as a treaty, it was not closer to be just a gentlemen’s agreement,
Italy was constrained under international law to respect its commitments. While
Italy expected Austria to believe that all the measures would be respected and
implemented in time Austria had to cancel all its activities and wait for the
Package and the calendar to be implemented. So Italy had the responsibility to fulfil
this deal because they were benefiting from a trust-based behaviour of Austria
even if the agreement was purely political and not legally binding.                                                                                                                                              This
Package was the supporting foundation of today’s autonomy arrangement that was successfully
implemented and led to end of the problems between Italy and Austria concerning
this matter. From now on in the rest of the essay we will deal with the actual
implementation of the Package and see how participative tools and participative
governance based ideas, even if not called by that name back then, were crucial
to the success of the South Tyrolean autonomy implementation, namely the Second Autonomy Statute; the joint commissions and
the products of these negotiations: enactment decrees which establish the
essence of the South Tyrolean autonomy.

4-The Power of the
autonomous province of South Tyrol

            One of
the first implementation measures was the reform of the previous statute
through approval of a new statute, that contained the measures of the former
statute which would continue in force as well as those of the new autonomy
statute, from now on called the Second Autonomy Statute. This so called ‘basic
law’ has the main principles necessary to the autonomy system and is protected by
the constitutional law within the Italian legal system.

            The
second Autonomy Statute, provided its provinces, South Tyrol and Trentino, with
the autonomous provinces rank, transferring nearly all important legislative
and administrative powers to them as self-regulating systems that help more
complex systems like countries or companies to work better because it reduces
the dependency between systems. As a result, South Tyrol’s autonomous powers
are surprisingly brilliant, not only when placed side by side with other
minority-situations, but even in comparison with its northern neighbour Tyrol,
a member state of federal Austria.

            They
were now responsible for economic, cultural, and social matters that include: coordinate
provincial offices and workers; geographical naming , that should respect bilingualism
in the region; preservation and recovery of historical sites and their usage;
town and country strategy planning; environmental and natural resource issues; local
transport; local communications; local economy control measures(e.g.

agriculture, forestry, hunting, fishing, tourism…); public works; water works;
public welfare; kindergartens, professional education etc. As long as South
Tyrol respects the legal agreements and the national interests they are free to
administer these fields at their own will.

            But
not everything was a bed of roses and there are still legislations to respect that
are standard across Italy, so even if it seems self-management they are not
completely free is some subjects. These includes local police issues,
elementary and secondary education, roads, electricity, industrial protection,
water supplies, hygiene and public health (including hospital services) as well
as some other issues that require more attention and safety from the government.

Still, that didn’t stop them from earning a large number of additional
competences not foreseen or guaranteed in the autonomy statute when the Second
Autonomy Statute was settled, but they were able to do it in negotiations with
the Italian government.

            Everything mentioned above
regarding legislative and also executive powers apply to both South Tyrol and
Trentino. But there are some special provisions concerning the relations
between the linguistic groups resident in the province that apply only to South
Tyrol. 

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