No. 16.
Mr. Delaplaine to Mr. Evarts.

No. 381.]

Sir: In the Austrian delegation, on the 3d instant, the imperial and royal minister for foreign affairs, Baron Haymerle, elaborately defined the motives and course of the Oriental policy of Austria-Hungary. I had designed at first the transmission of a summary analysis only, but in consideration of its interest and importance, I have made a translation of the whole speech, which I herewith inclose.

I have, &c.,

[Inclosure in No. 381.—Translation.]

Speech of Baron Haymerle.

The temptation for the minister for foreign affairs not to speak upon so wide a sphere of policy as has been here touched certainly is very great, because so many questions are introduced for discussion that he must impose upon himself great caution in his expressions.

The initiative to this so interesting, and I must allow, for the minister for foreign affairs, exciting debate, has been taken by the delegate, Baron Hübner. His speech culminated in the wish declared to the government, that inasmuch as complications are to be feared, endeavors should be made for having a postponement of the Oriental question. I, like most European statesmen, am deeply penetrated with the conviction that it is in the interest of Europe and in the interest of the populations of the Balkan Peninsula to avoid complications and to refrain from all precipitation in the Oriental question. I need not first give the assurance that the government will use its endeavors as well generally to avoid complications as to remove all acuteness from those which may possibly occur. The means which Baron Hübner has indicated to us does not appear to me altogether adapted to attain this postponement of complications, inasmuch as he has at once commenced by dividing the European powers into two groups which he appeared to assume had diverging interests, and they certainly possess powerful resources at their command. Yes, if Europe should at once be divided into two such groups, then it would perhaps be difficult to avoid complications and certainly it would be still more difficult to divest them of their dangerous character. It is not my task to inquire how the several powers should be here qualified, and in what manner their policy should be indicated. I should be obliged otherwise to raise objections against much which has been here expressed on both sides. I can, however, only say that the aim of our policy, the aim of those powers which stand with us on one line, especially of one power, is directed to the object, not of splitting Europe, but of uniting it in a common programme of peace and of tranquillity. This endeavor may be successful, [Page 24] it may have to struggle against greater or less difficulties, but in every case there are some powers in Europe, and especially two, which engage in this programme, and which, as I believe, form a firm nucleus around which others will group. Even if that programme should consist in the postponement of the Oriental question, it is not to be exclusively in the hands of the government.

The purpose of the Oriental concert is not, as the illusion is entertained, that all difficulties will be overcome, but that the hope is cherished, in case the opposing opinions should be reconciled, that a peaceful solution maybe produced without prejudice to the vital interest of one or the other party. When this programme shall be maintained then it will naturally result that nothing can happen that is not considered as absolutely correct by one or the other power. All the questions to-day touched upon do not first issue from the Berlin Congress. The Bulgarian question already cast its heavy shadow upon the Constantinople conference of 1877, with which the ambassadors of the powers were then occupied. Similarly, the Greek question does not date from today; it is to be traced back to the years of 1820 and further. Accordingly, to find means to bring them to a settlement at a fixed time, even the concert of the European powers will not unconditionally succeed in effecting that object.

I will further reply to some remarks of Baron Hübner, upon the Dulcigno question, as also of the reporter on the Albanian question and the Greek question. It may be true that the non-intervention policy is the correct one, and that the most cautious use of international exceptional rules is to be made there where national passions are antagonistic, but non-interference is only then an arcanum when one is sure that others also do not interfere. But when a power proclaims in advance the principle of non-intervention, without the other powers at the same time engaging themselves to material and moral non-intervention, then this power becomes in advance disarmed. So in regard to the question of Dulcigno, which, owing to its tedious phase of development, the powers were unable to bring to a definite solution. In regard to the right of Montenegro to enter into possession of the territorial limits allotted to it in the treaty of Berlin; finally, in regard to the further questions whether an executional accomplishment of this question in a determined course might be proper, there were offered various ways which our policy might follow. We could decline simply every proposition aiming at that end, even oppose ourselves to it, and thereby be held liable to engage to act for not fulfilling the treaty of Berlin; we could unconditionally assent; we could finally advise as to our own interest and so far limit the European action that every danger for our own interest, as well as for the general interest of peace, would be avoided. Now, it is requisite for us, in our own interest, to see this question regulated since it is not desirable for any state that, on its immediate frontier, the scene of a conflagration which, although not locally of much extent, might become so, should conceal within itself glowing sparks, and we could, secondly, not well permit that on the immediate frontier of our empire, foreign powers should act without our participating in such action in friendly or antagonistic manner.

The expenditure of material means, the possible compromise of our policy, present themselves by the non-employment of the above-indicated means as alike small; there can therefore be no question of sacrifices, of a submission of Austrian and of a substitution of foreign interest. Finally, we have also our individual interests in this question so far as they, through a really unimportant object, could be brought in sympathy, and maintained. In this way we have claimed the extension of the new coast of Dulcigno to be ceded to Montenegro, and the right of maritime and sanitary police, granted to us in the treaty of Berlin over the ceded territory of Antivari; which claim of ours was assented to by all the signatory powers of the treaty of Berlin. The question of Dulcigno is, unfortunately, not yet finally settled. I believe, however, that the solution of the same must soon occur if one may believe the repeated assurances of the Porte, and may infer that, in Constantinople at present, the impression exists that it is extremely important for the Porte to put an end to the situation in which it stands to disadvantage with the other powers.

As to the Greek question, the reproach has been uttered that we have gone too far, inasmuch as we have assented to the determined boundaries. I have, in another place acknowledged, and I here acknowledge it anew, that we consider the Greek element as an element, the endeavors of which are accompanied with our sympathy. It is an ancient element of culture, and whatever culture in the Balkan Peninsula has been saved, owes thanks to the endeavors of the Greek element. The reproof that we have consented to a fixed frontier, is not exactly correct, inasmuch as the treaty of Berlin had already, in principle, settled the boundaries. We have, however, not stated the determined line as a compulsory line, but to hold fast to the idea “mediation,” a mediation to which we were engaged, after Greece, in accordance with the treaty of Berlin had called for it. A decided engagement to accomplish this decision exists no more than on any of the other enactments of the treaty of Berlin.

In respect to the strength of the Greek element, not only does the extension of the boundaries of those provinces, in which since the last twenty years it has been decidedly repressed, belong to our interests, but I consider it requisite for the government [Page 25] to employ suitable means in order that the significance of the Hellenic element should have its right position acknowledged on convenient occasions and without prejudice to our own interest. How far the Austrian Government will proceed in this matter will be a subject of mature reflection, since there are political objects for which one makes a certain expenditure of means, but for which one is determined not to bring further sacrifices, nor to have recourse to measures which might lead in their consequences to greater complications. Whilst I, in this respect must maintain reserve, I notice the point has also reference to the question which the honorable delegate Demel has repeatedly presented, namely in reference to the question as to the aims followed in the East by the Austro-Hungarian Government. He has indeed dispensed with a strict answer being given, but desired to see the respective explanations fully communicated, particularly to know the general formula laid down for the aims of our Grecian policy. Now I might perhaps define the formula to this effect; that we will endeaver to preserve the equilibrium between the populations of the Balkan Peninsula, as well as also the equilibrium of the influence of the European powers.

I have still some words in reply to that which the reporter Plener has said in regard to the Albanian question and with regard to the relations with the neighboring states.

First, as regards the neighboring states, I am deeply penetrated by the wish to maintain with them the most friendly relations. A state which follows no egotistical policy, which does not wish for an aggrandizement of its territory or the annexation of another nationality to its territory, can only observe a friendly policy towards its neighbors.

The Austro-Hungarian monarchy can do it for the greater reason, since it is a question of nationalities which have already become a part of our Fatherland, and must therefore be dear to us. I believe it is the best policy to maintain friendship with neighboring states and to labor for the development of mutual prosperity. But here, again, the character of the reciprocal relations, and thereby, the result do not depend on us. One may be determined to be a good neighbor, and in that respect, I can only give the assurance, that my endeavors are always directed to maintaining friendly relations with our neighbors. But should one of the latter not receive the proffered hand, should he fail to discover that all his interests recommend him to maintain similar friendly relations, and should he occupy an antagonistic position, then would Austria-Hungary be in the condition of making her national might palpably felt. This is no boasting self-estimation, but may prove a necessity at a particular moment. That we are friendly neighbors, and can find friendly neighborhood, is evidenced by the greatly improved relations for some years past with Roumania. Certainly I might address an appeal to public opinion and its organs in Austria-Hungary, not to magnify into great conflicts the occasional frictions of interest and divergences of opinion which may arise (and which perhaps, I admit it will not be treated by those little states with the proper calm with which they should be treated) and not to artificially destroy the friendly relations which we are disposed to maintain.

The delegate Dr. Von Plener has also thought of one more nationality, which lays very near his heart, that is the Albanian. Gentlemen, that which I have already said in regard to our relations with the neighboring states, partly refers also to these races, which, in consequence of the occupation of Bosnia and the Herzogovina, have become our neighbors, and from whose legitimate expansion no menace for us can be foreseen, and which we have every reason therefore to aid and to further in their development. But so accurate a judge and so sharp a discerner as Dr. Von Plener is, still I must say, that the word “Albanian nation” is an idea that is, only now, on the point of being realized.

I will here make no ethnographic “excursus,” but until a few years ago the Albanians knew extraordinarily little about an Albanian national feeling; and when one goes back into their history it is found that Northern Albania, under a prince like Skander-Beg (later under another native prince) and Southern Albania (about the time of Ali-Pasha) endeavored to have closer communication with each other, in order to give expression to their feelings of independence of the Porte; but their perfect understanding was never attained, and even to-day, in point of fact, prominent antagonistic views exist. This nation was divided into races, just as Scotland in the twelfth century was divided into clans, which were at one moment foes, at another formed alliances. When even the antagonistic views usually were not so sharp as in other oriental countries, still the difference between Mussulmen and Catholics was much more pronounced than between Mussulmen and orthodox in the south of the country. Recently and the merit belongs to the Porte, the national sentiment has begun to arise in Albania, and as I apprehend, not to the disadvantage of the Porte; but first of all, it must unite itself with the Islam world, particularly with the Sultan. Another junction of the Oriental Mohamedan element I cannot foresee, and from my experiences, I must say, that we shall have a great deal of trouble to protect these oriental elements against the oppression of the Mussulmen. In respect to the regulation of the Montenegrin question the treaty of Berlin has, in fact, made certain encroachments on the Albanian provinces. To oppose these the Mussulman inhabitants in the first place have made resistance, after the conferences of April, so also did the Catholic races. Duleigno [Page 26] itself, does not properly affect the Albanian question; the best evidence for that is, that the resistance did not proceed from Dulcigno, but exclusively from outside instigation.

Much has been said, and also the delegate Dr. Von Plener has spoken—of alliances, secret understandings, and the like. If one reads the newspapers of the last few months, he will not find two countries in Europe, which have not concluded alliances and again have separated from each other. As regards Austria-Hungary, in the policy of the last few years—and this I may claim as well for my predecessor as for myself—constancy in our political relations and in our political aims has been our characteristic. I will abstain from giving assurances on my side as to this point, since these might only result in weakening a stable action for our general policy under all circumstances. It only remains to me to reply to the interpellation of the delegate Professor Suess.

I believe that it is well known with what lively interest I anticipated the commencement of the works at the iron Gate; I believe that it is a national economical interest of Austria-Hungary of the highest importance. I believe that though we have assumed no engagement in a juridical sense, but a right, we are still morally bound towards Europe to open the finest water highway of the continent, and elevate the Danube to the importance which it may gain along wide districts and extents of country. The question is at present between both governments of the Emperor and King in course of negotiation, and as regards the influential agency of the ministry of foreign affairs, which consecrates the most lively protection to this question as a task transferred to us by the treaty of Berlin; nothing, therefore, will be omitted to promote the affair, and to bring it to an early accomplishment; the ministry for foreign affairs, in fact, will regard it as its task to protect in every way and to foster the economical interest of Austria-Hungary.

But here I should not pass in silence the fact, that many varying influential circles in our population connect excessive and unwholesome expectations with the action of the government. The government can open a way. But that people shall go through it it is not in their power to effect, and when we wish to follow in these economical interests, then pioneers of economical progress from among the people must go before. We enjoy advantage by reason of geographical position, and also from Bosnia and the Herzogovina being opened to us, as if we were in them, upon Austro-Hungarian soil. The railways will, it is hoped, be constructed; in every case the government will make the necessary endeavors in order that they may be constructed, and it will direct to this question the greatest attention. Also in other departments of industry and commerce we do not occupy less favorable footing than other nations. I do not believe that in any highly developed people, it was the action of the government which alone, or even chiefly, has produced the advancement of economical prosperity. I would remind you of the example of little Switzerland which, under unfavorable circumstances, has produced a vast commerce and industry, and representations even into the countries of Eastern Asia, which far surpass those of other nations. Switzerland has no navigable rivers, is surrounded by foreign custom-house territories; is a mountainous, poor country, and possesses no diplomatic representation abroad, and yet there are in China and Eastern Asia Swiss firms which dispute the rank with the greatest German and English houses.

Hereupon the preliminary estimates for the ministry of foreign affairs, presented for demands and for covering expenditures, according to the propositions of the committee, was in special debate adopted.