Paris Peace Conf. 180.03401/67


Notes of a Meeting Held at President Wilson’s House in the Place des Etats-Unis, Paris, on Saturday, June 14, 1919, at 4 p.m.

  • Present
    • United States of America
      • President Wilson.
    • British Empire
      • The Rt. Hon. D. Lloyd George, M. P.
    • France
      • M. Clemenceau.
    • Italy
      • Baron Sonnino.
    • Japan
      • Baron Makino.
    • Belgium
      • M. Hymans.
      • M. Van den Heuvel.
    • Czecho-Slovakia
      • Dr. Kramarcz.
      • Dr. Benes.
    • Poland
      • M. Paderewski.
      • M. Dmowski.
Sir Maurice Hankey, K. C. B. } Secretaries.
M. di Martino
Prof. P. J. Mantoux.—Interpreter.

1. President Wilson said that this Meeting had been arranged in order to enable a discussion to take place between the members of the Council of the Principal Allied and Associated Powers and the Representatives of certain States, not represented on that Council, in regard to the changes contemplated in the Treaty of Peace with Germany which specially affected them. There was one point more especially affecting Belgium and Czecho-Slovakia and he proposed to explain the contemplated change in the first instance. Article 373 of the Treaty of Peace with Germany would have compelled Germany to allow railways to be constructed in her territory by the Allied and Associated Powers. The Commission on the International Regime of Ports, Waterways and Railways had proposed a fresh draft which would have enabled Belgium and the Czecho-Slovak State to construct certain specified lines. The Council had come to the conclusion, however, that this was not a just provision for among other things the proposed Clause provided for the possibility of some of the expense falling on Germany. This would have meant a burden heavier on Germany than was provided in the original Clause and it had been a fixed principle not to impose any greater burden on Germany than had been contained in the original Treaty. Railway Construction by Germany: Article 373 of the Treaty of Peace With Germany

M. Kramarcz said that he had been a Member of the Commission on Ports, Waterways and Railways, and was familiar with this question. [Page 447] The subject had originated with a desire on Italy’s part to obtain certain junctions with the Tauern Railway. Belgium had then expressed a desire for improving the communications between Antwerp and Mannheim. The proposals now made were really much less than those contained in the original Treaty. Germany had protested against the original clause and was right in doing so, for it would have given an undefined right of railway construction by foreign powers in Germany, so that they could have constructed railways anywhere. Such a general provision was indefensible. The object of the new text had been to meet the German criticisms by defining and limiting what was required of Germany. The objects were, first, to show Germany that the Allied and Associated Powers had no desire to construct railways in Germany wherever they pleased; and secondly, to ask for certain definite improvements on specified lines. These proposals amounted to very little. The first proposal was for improvements for connecting Antwerp with the Rhine provinces. The second proposal provided for certain railways of considerable importance to Czecho-Slovakia, but, at the same time, he thought that the new Article would satisfy the Germans. The United States Delegates had taken a strong line against the proposal, but the British Delegates had only made slight objections. If Belgium and Czecho-Slovakia were left to negotiate these railway constructions with Germany, they would be in an inferior situation. They wanted the support of their Allies in pressing for this construction, and they therefore asked for the maintenance of the Article.

M. Hymans thanked M. Kramarcz for his explanation in regard to Belgium as well as his own country. M. Kramarcz had been a Member of the Commission and he himself had not, and was not familiar with the question. He had had no opportunity to confer with the Belgian Delegate on the Commission, but he was a very competent person and he knew that the lines he had asked for were only what was reasonable. He understood that the Germans objected to the very general provisions in the original draft Treaty. The new text provided for the construction only of a few lines, none of them very extensive. This should be a great relief to the Germans and from their point of view, an improvement on the old Treaty. Hence, he agreed with M. Kramarcz in pressing strongly for the retention of the amendment.

Mr. Lloyd George asked Dr. Benes and M. Hymans whether the proposed railways were of sufficient importance for it to be worth while for the Czecho-Slovak and Belgian Governments respectively to construct the railways in Germany at their own expense.

Dr. Benes explained that in regard to the connection between the stations of Schlauney and Nachod it would be worth while, as this [Page 448] railway was important for the conveyance of coal from Upper Silesia.

M. Hymans was unable to answer the question, but undertook to send an expert.

After some further explanations had been given by M. Kramarcz and Dr. Benes on a map, the Belgian and Czecho-Slovak Delegates withdrew.

(After consultation with the British expert, Colonel Henniker, the Council decided that instead of deleting Article 373 in accordance with the decision taken on the previous day, a new Article 373 should be inserted in the Treaty of Peace with Germany, providing that within a period of five years from the coming into force of the present Treaty, the Czecho-Slovak State may require the construction at the expense of the Czecho-Slovak State of a connection between the stations of Schlauney and Nachod.

An instruction to the Drafting Committee in this sense was initialled by the representatives of the five Principal Allied and Associated Powers.)

Note. The Belgian technical representative did not arrive.