Statement by Foreign Secretary Eden on the British Proposal for the Setting Up of Machinery for Dealing With the Questions Requiring Current and Close Collaboration, With Particular Reference to the Functions and Scope of the Politico-Military Commission in Algiers 79a
Conference Document No. 6
In speaking of this item I should like to speak in particular of the Politico-Military Commission.[Page 706]
I have already circulated to the Conference a paper suggesting terms of reference for the Commission.80 Since circulating it, I have been reflecting further on the question and would like to modify my proposal.
I have always thought it would be desirable to set up permanent machinery for consultation between the three powers. There is great need of such machinery and if at this Conference we can set it up we shall have made a further and important contribution to closer collaboration between us. I attach urgent importance to this question and I therefore welcomed the original Soviet proposal for a Politico-Military Commission.81
In our original conception, the Commission was to turn its attention first to Italian problems and it was to be located in Algiers. Our idea was that if, as we hoped, its scope was widened, it might move, say, to London.
In making this suggestion, we did not overlook two suggestions made by the Soviet Government.
These were first that the Commission should also deal with negotiations with other Axis satellites who might dissociate themselves from Germany, and with the question of liberated territories; and secondly that the Commission should actually direct and coordinate the work of the various organs of control in Italy.
As regards the first point, the more I think of it, the more I am convinced that the Commission should have very wide terms of reference. Indeed I think that it might be entrusted with the study of any European questions, other than military operational questions, which our three Governments might agree to refer to it. It would have an advisory character and its members would make recommendations either collectively or individually to their Governments. We should thus have a permanent body which would act as a clearing house for European problems of common interest connected with the war. This might be of the greatest service to us all.
A body with such comprehensive terms of reference could not, I think, conveniently meet at Algiers or in Italy. It would be essential that it should meet in one of the three capitals, and I should be happy if my colleagues would agree to London, which would be a convenient central place. We should be ready to welcome it there at any time.
I now come to the second Soviet proposal, namely the proposal that the Commission should take executive charge of the control machinery in Italy.[Page 707]
This raises one or two points.
The first is a constitutional point. In view of our own system of government, we should not be able to agree that a commission of this character should itself decide questions of major policy or have executive functions. In our conception, the Commission would be advisory. It would make recommendations to Governments and the Governments would decide.
The second is a practical point. If the Commission undertook to direct the work of control in Italy, it would become local in character and would be absorbed in day-to-day affairs and would be tied to the Mediterranean area. It could not in these circumstances fulfil the wider functions which we have in mind for it.
There is a third practical point. Other machinery of an international character is in contemplation which would provide for the association of our three Governments, with some others, in the operation of the control machinery in Italy. This would not of course preclude the Commission in London from concerning itself with the Italian question in its broader aspects, if it were desired.
No final scheme has been adopted, but I will now outline the kind of scheme contemplated.
I would emphasize that our information on this subject may not be complete and that my remarks are therefore of a provisional character. Perhaps we could improve the scheme.
Briefly the plan is as follows.
Three periods are contemplated for Italy.
The first period would run from the present time until the establishment of the Italian Government in Rome. This, we hope, would be a very brief period. During this period there would be a skeleton Allied Control Commission under the Commander-in-Chief.
The second period would be from the establishment of the Italian Government in Rome until the end of the campaign in Italy or until military supervision of the Control Commission is no longer necessary. During this period the Allied Control Commission would be in full operation under the Commander-in-Chief as president. Side by side with the Allied Control Commission there would be an inter-Allied advisory council composed of High Commissioners representing the United Kingdom, the United States, the Soviet Union and also, if thought fit, the French Committee, Greece and Yugoslavia. This Council would advise the Commander-in-Chief in his capacity as president of the Allied Control Commission.
I think that we should all agree that during the period of military operations the Commander-in-Chief should have the final authority. The High Commissioners would also watch the interests of their own governments and nationals.[Page 708]
With the opening of the third period the Commander-in-Chief would relinquish the presidency of the Allied Commission of Control and the Council of High Commissioners would take over from him the executive direction of the work of control.
I return now to the Politico-Military Commission.
There remains the question of the membership of the Commission.
The first point that arises is whether the French Committee should be represented as one of the permanent members of the Commission, if it is agreed that it should have wider scope and sit in London, or whether permanent membership should be limited to the three Powers represented at this Conference, other powers having access as and when matters concerning them are discussed. I should be glad to hear the views of my colleagues on this subject.