Paris Peace Conf. 180.03201/14


Secretary’s Notes of a Meeting of the Foreign Ministers Held in M. Pichon’s Room at the Quai d’Orsay, Paris, on Saturday, May 10th, 1919, at 4 p.m.

Present Also Present
America, United States of America, United States of
Hon. R. Lansing. Dr. Day.
Secretary Prof. D. W. Johnson.
Mr. L. Harrison. British Empire
British Empire Sir Eyre Crowe.
The Rt. Hon. A. J. Balfour, O.M., M.P. Hon. H. Nicolson.
Secretary Mr. A. Leeper.
Mr. H. Norman. Major H. W. V. Temperley.
France Mr. Carnegie.
M. Pichon. France
Secretaries M. Tardieu.
M. Arnavon. M. Laroche.
Capt. de St. Quentin. M. Aubert.
M. de Bearn. Italy
Italy M. de Martino.
Baron Sonnino. M. Vannutelli-Rey.
Count Aldrovandi.
M. Bertele.
H. E. Baron Makino.
M. Saburi.
M. Kawai.

Joint Secretariat

America, United States of Col. U. S. Grant.
British Empire Capt. E. Abraham.
France Capt. A. Portier.
Italy Lieut. Zanchi.
[Page 697]

1. M. Pichon asked M. Tardieu whether he had any additional explanations to make to the report. (For Report see Annexure A.)

Frontier Between Austria & Jugo-Slavia: Consideration of Supplementary Reports by Committee on Jugo-Slav Affairs M. Tardieu said that the Report had been circulated and that it explained itself.

Baron Sonnino said that in his opinion the solution finally proposed by the Committee in Part II of the Report appeared to him somewhat complicated. Italy, in the interest of the port of Trieste, wished that there should be uninterrupted communication between that port and German-Austria and Bohemia. For this purpose the Railway line should not pass through the territory of any third State which had no direct interest in the development of the line and possibly an adverse interest. Similar considerations had been given weight in dealing with Poland, Czecho-Slovakia, Hungary, etc. No doubt this might involve the delivery of a certain number of Slovenes to Austrian rule, but similar instances were not lacking elsewhere. For instance, the town of Marburg had been given to Jugo-Slavia though it contained from 18,000 to 20,000 Germans. He did not wish to delay peace with Austria, and for that purpose, he would, if necessary, agree to the solution proposed, but he pointed out that it was no real solution; it was only a postponement.

M. Pichon said that it had the advantage of rendering an early signature of peace with Austria possible. The ultimate attribution of the territory could then be settled among the Allies.

Baron Sonnino said that the alternatives were to give the territory in question, namely: the triangle surrounding Klagenfurt, to Austria or to Jugo-Slavia. If it were to go to Austria, why not decide at once? Were it to go to Jugo-Slavia, either at once or later, the economic trouble to which he had alluded would inevitably ensue. There was a third possibility, to attribute it to Italy; but this was not desired by Italy, who wished to avoid the inclusion of non-Italian populations, except in cases of territories required for Italian safety.

Mr. Balfour said that he did not wish to express any strong dogmatic views, but he wished to suggest a few points. He felt some difficulty in meeting the views of the Italian Delegation, and in disregarding those of the French, British and American delegations. The Italian solution involved not only the separation of some Jugo-Slavs from the bulk of their nation, but their surrender to an enemy State. It was difficult to justify the handing over to an enemy of the natural subjects of a State it was intended to create. Secondly, he understood that the frontier proposed by all but the Italian Delegation followed the crest of a high range of hills. This crest formed the natural frontier between Jugo-Slavia and Austria. The Italian proposal would bring the Austrians south of the range. This, on the face of it, was an extraordinary thing to do in dealing with a hostile [Page 698] State. The proposal appeared to violate both ethnographical and geographical considerations. It was not a parallel case to that of the Brenner, the acquisition of which by Italy could be justified on geographical grounds, though open to criticism on ethnological grounds. In this case both ethnology and geography agreed, and both were to be violated. The only answer to these objections was that one of the two railway lines connecting Trieste and the north passed through this tongue of territory. It was assumed that if this tongue of territory belonged to Jugo-Slavia, it might be utilised to obstruct the trade of Trieste with the North. This was a serious argument, as undoubtedly all the Allies wished to promote the trade of Trieste. There was, however, one qualification to this, namely: that there was another railway line connecting Trieste with German-Austria. This line it was true was inferior to the more easterly line. Still it existed and was an element in the situation. A further qualification was that the Allied Powers in dealing with Poland had been faced by a similar, but yet more vital, railway problem. The arrangement with Germany made it possible that the only main line of communication between the capital of Poland and the sea would be intercepted by German territory. This possibility had been contemplated, and in the event of its being realised, arrangements had been thought out to safeguard the traffic. The Polish case was obviously a stronger case than the one in question, as the most vital interests of the whole country were in jeopardy. It could not be held that the railway line from Trieste to the North affected Italian interests to this extent. If, therefore, the provisions made for Poland were sufficient, similar provisions ought to be adequate for Trieste. Lastly, he wished to draw attention to a very serious aspect of the delivery of this territory to Austria. It would give the Northern powers access to a region from which they could advantageously invade Jugo-Slavia. He did not think that Italy would readily grant such an advantage to any of her own enemies. The Council could not, he thought, decide this case against the Jugo-Slavs until this military problem had been studied. The remarks just made represented the reflections suggested by the report just put forward by M. Tardieu. Before concluding he wished to say that he sympathised most cordially with the Italian wish to develop Trieste. All wished to see Trieste prosperous, and possessed of free access to all the countries North of it.

Mr. Lansing enquired whether he was wrong in understanding that both of the railway roads were single tracks.

M. Laroche said that both lines had a single track, but that tunnels had been made on the Eastern line (Trieste-Assling) for a double track.

Mr. Lansing said that he had little to add to the very full consideration [Page 699] given to the subject by Baron Sonnino and Mr. Balfour. As to the principles on which the solution ought to be based, he agreed with Mr. Balfour. In the case of the Brenner Pass the Council had decided to give precedence to topographical over ethnographical considerations, and had given to Italy territory including a large number of Austrian-Germans. They were now asked to change their principles, and to decide against a natural boundary. It seemed to him that a similar argument might be used in the case of Fiume. If this territory must not be Jugo-Slav, because the Jugo-Slavs might use it to interrupt communications with an Italian port, the Hinterland of Fiume, it might equally be argued, must not be Jugo-Slav because the railways feeding the port might similarly be interfered with.

Baron Sonnino said that he did not admit the cases were parallel. In this instance the railway was to pass through a band of territory about 20 kilometres broad. The Jugo-Slavs would not be interested in the railway at all, and if they possessed this strip they might seize the opportunity of neglecting the line in order to favour traffic to another part. In the case of Fiume, however, the whole trade must come through territory which no one suggested should be withheld from Jugo-Slavia. The contest was really between two ports, and the natural flow of commerce to each should be kept as far as possible separate, and no entanglement between them should be allowed. This was the only way to secure the development of both.

As to the ethnological point, in Poland, some 300,000 Germans were to be made subjects of the new Polish State, and about 280,000 Hungarians were to be Roumanian subjects, as the inevitable accompaniment of some hundreds of kilometres of railway.

Mr. Lansing observed that the process of giving to friends rather than to enemies was being reversed. This territory was being taken from the Jugo-Slavs to be given to the Austrians.

Baron Sonnino observed that the Slovenes were not his friends in a greater degree than the Austrians.

Mr. Lansing retorted that America regarded them as friends.

Baron Sonnino said that the new States should be considered neither as friends nor foes. Should German Austria, for instance, join the Danubian Confederacy, the Austrians might come to be regarded as friends. Should they join the German Confederation, the Austrians would be counted among foes. The question was really one of permanent commercial relations. Further, if the question of friendship was raised, he claimed a share for Italy.

Mr. Balfour said that he heartily endorsed the last sentence.

Mr. Lansing agreed but pointed out that the question was an Austrian rather than an Italian problem.

Baron Sonnino said that it was an Italian question in as much as it concerned Trieste, Istria and the Adriatic.

[Page 700]

Mr. Lansing said that he was struck by the fact that if Austria were brought so far south, she might feel she had a claim to reach salt water.

Baron Sonnino observed that she would only be brought some 20 kilometres nearer the sea.

M. Pichon enquired whether any practical solution could be found.

Baron Sonnino said he was ready to accept the proposal made by the Committee at the end of the second section of the Report. He was ready to do this in a conciliatory spirit to avoid obstructing the signature of a Treaty with Austria. He would have, however, a small amendment to make. He would stipulate that the triangle, the ultimate fate of which was to be reserved, should not be made so wide as to include the western line from Trieste, and thereby to leave in suspense the whole of the railway communications between Trieste and the north. In other words, the triangle should not include the line from Trieste to Villach via Udine and Tarvis.

Mr. Lansing proposed that the formula suggested by the Committee be accepted with a proviso that the limit of the territory be to the east of Tarvis.

M. Tardieu observed that the Committee had constantly kept in view the desirability of preserving uninterrupted communication between Trieste and Austria.

Mr. Balfour said that he was ready to accept the view that it was the business of the Conference to see that direct and free railway communication be assured between Trieste, German-Austria, Bohemia and the north generally.

Baron Sonnino said that on this understanding he would agree to the draft of the Committee.

Mr. Balfour said that his remark should not be interpreted as a pre-judgment on the question of territorial sovereignty. By direct and free communication, he did not mean necessarily to imply that railway lines were not to pass through ground belonging to a third State.

Baron Sonnino said that he accepted the proposal of the Committee on the understanding that due consideration was given to the necessity of preserving the railway communications of Trieste towards the north. He would make no concession in advance regarding the question of territory just mentioned by Mr. Balfour.

Mr. Lansing pointed out that the Report of the Committee proposed that the frontier line should pass north of the tunnel of Rosenbach. He thought that it would be better to have the frontier line along the ridge over the tunnel.

(After some discussion it was agreed to omit the last clause of the first paragraph of the Committee’s recommendation in part II of the Report.)

[Page 701]

M. Pichon suggested that the Committee should formulate a proposal, after taking into consideration the above discussion, for reference to the Council of Heads of States, and that no further reference need be made to the Council of Foreign Ministers, should the Committee reach a unanimous decision.

(This was agreed to.)

(The Meeting then adjourned.)

Paris, May 10th, 1919.

Annexure “A”

Report Submitted to the Council of Foreign Ministers by the Committee on Jugo-Slav Affairs

I. Explanatory

(1). The Italian Delegation claim that to the west of the road Klagenfurt-Laibach, the frontier between Jugo-Slavia and Austria should follow a south south-easterly direction reaching the frontier granted to Italy by the Treaty of London in such a manner as to leave to Austria the upper part of the valley of the Save as far as Radmannsdorf.

(2). The Italian Delegation supports this demand by economic and military reasons to which it attaches the highest importance.

(a) Economic reasons.

The line Udine-Pontebba is insufficient to carry traffic between Trieste and Austria and the north, firstly by reason of its limited capacity, secondly by reason of its greater length, which increases the cost of transport.

Absolutely free use of the line Gorizia-Assling-Rosenbach is therefore indispensable to the life of Trieste, as the proposed link between Tolmino and Tarvis through the Predel Pass, is, according to the Italian Delegation, not realisable for a long time, and the delay would cause serious harm to the commerce of Trieste.

Should even a small part, (twenty-five kilometres) of the line Gorizia-Assling-Rosenbach be in Jugo-Slav territory, the traffic of Trieste will be hampered, firstly by passing through two customs barriers in a short stretch, secondly, by the risks incidental to any difference arising between the two countries concerned.

(b) Military Reasons.

The railway line in question, according to the Italian Delegation, does not represent a military threat against Italy on behalf of an enemy attacking from the North, as any attack from that side would necessarily be limited to that single point. On the other hand, it does represent a very serious threat favourable to any attack coming from the East, if supported by a developed system of communications [Page 702] over more open ground. This threat would on the left wing compromise the line of defence from the sources of the Isonzo to the Adriatic.

The experience of the war and the events of October 1917 are proof of this.

(3.) From the ethnographical point of view the Italian Delegation points out that if the consequence of their claim is that a certain number of Slovenes will be included in Austria, on the other hand equally large groups of Germans (Marburg, Gottschee etc.,) have been included in Jugo-Slavia.

It is further argued that in many similar cases, Commissions and the Supreme Council have given precedence over ethnographic considerations to economic interests like those put forward by Italy regarding railway communications.

II. Opinion or the Committee

The Committee after three meetings held on the 9th and 10th May, presents the following report:—

1. The Committee unanimously recognises that the number of Slovenes who, as a consequence of the Italian claim, would remain in Austrian territory, amounts to about 50,000.

2. The Committee unanimously considers that it is not competent to deal with the military argument and suggests that this aspect of the problem should be studied by other Experts.

3. As regards the economic argument, the importance of which is unanimously recognised;

(a) The American Delegation considers that the inconveniences pointed out by Italy could be remedied by special stipulations regarding the regulations of customs. These regulations might be placed under international supervision which would ensure to Italy full and free use of the railway line.

The British and French Delegations are of the same opinion.

(b) The same Delegations consider that this would permit of the construction of a line from Tolmino to Tarvis by the Predel pass, without jeopardising the traffic of Trieste.

4. The above mentioned Delegations consider that this local problem is intimately connected with the solution of the general problem of frontiers between Italy, Austria and Jugo-Slavia, a problem with which the Committee is not entrusted. The solution of this problem may eventually remove the whole basis of the observations made by the Italian Delegation.

For this reason in order to avoid any delay in the drafting of the clauses of the Treaty of Peace with Austria, the following formula is proposed:—

“The southern frontier of Austria should be continued from the [Page 703] point south of Klagenfurt at which the line proposed in the Committee’s report ends, in such a way as to follow the crest line of the Karawanken towards the West as far as Hill 2,035, northwest of Tarvis, but in such a manner as to leave to the south of the frontier the northern entrance of the tunnel of Rosenbach.

The district of Tarvis and the zone south east of it, which the Italian Delegation wishes to attribute to Austria, will thus be ceded by Austria to the Allied and Associated Powers.

Italy’s interest in preserving all adequate means of communication by rail, free of all obstacles, between Italy and Austria, would thus be safeguarded.”

The Italian Delegation made full reservations concerning any solution which might raise questions not entrusted to the Committee.

Note Annexe

It has been recognised that the limits of the Basin of Klagenfurt as fixed in the report of April 6th, would have the effect, should the population choose connection with Jugo-Slavia, of changing the sovereignty of the territory over which railway lines connecting Trieste and Vienna pass.

This consideration justifies a revision of the limits of the Basin of Klagenfurt within which enquiry should take place with the object of ascertaining the wishes of the population regarding the attribution of the region to Jugo-Slavia.

The Commission therefore proposes to fix the limit of the Basin of Klagenfurt in the following manner:—

South, the crest of the Karavanken.

Wes, a line starting from the crest of Karavanken north-east of Assling, going northwards towards the Drave, reaching it in such a manner as to leave five kilometres to the west of it the entrance of the tunnel of the line Rosenbach-Assling; thence following the course of the Drave up to 5 kilometres east of San-Ruprecht.

North, a line following the crest between Worther-See and Ossiacher-See, continuing towards the North east in such a way as to pass equi-distant from San-Veit and Klagenfurt, thence by the Stein-bruchkogel (1075 metres, map 1/200,000) passing by the extremity of the crest of Sau Alpe (Hill 1458), continuing towards the South east, passing north of Griffen, cutting the valley of the Lavant 5 kilometres north of its confluence with the Drave and meeting towards the east the crest between the Lavant and the River Feistritz.

East, following the crest between the Lavant and the Feistritz and cutting the Drave south of its confluence with the Lavant, continuing towards the south west in such a way as to pass east of Eisenkappel and to meet the crest of the Karavanken at Hill 2559.

This outline from the ethnological point of view results in the exclusion from the Basin, as previously defined by the Committee, of a population of about 60,000 Germans.

Paris, May 10th, 1919.