UNP Files, Lot 59 D 237, “Italian Membership”

Memorandum of Conversation, by Mr. Ward P. Allen, Special Assistant on United Nations Affairs, Bureau of European Affairs


Subject: Italian Participation in the United Nations

Participants: Mr. Felice Catalano, Second Secretary, Italian Embassy
Mr. Allen—EUR

Mr. Catalano stated that he had still not received from his Government its definitive thinking as to tactics and position at the next General Assembly on the question of granting Italy the right to vote in the Trusteeship Council. However, the first reaction of his Government to his report of our previous conversation was a slight fear that the major powers might adopt too rigid an approach to the Charter and freeze its provisions by restrictive interpretation. Such an attitude on the part of the United Nations could be discouraging to the small members and might result in bringing about a paralysis in the Organization, which was one of the major difficulties of the League of Nations. In response to my question he indicated that this concern about a crystallization of the Charter applied to both interpretation of the present language and willingness to accept amendments.

In response I sought to assure him that the US approach to the Charter has and will continue to be based on the belief that its provisions should be as liberally and flexibly interpreted as possible in order to keep the UN a living, adaptable organization. Indeed, this was the first time I had heard the contrary concern expressed. I thought our attitude was well illustrated by our whole approach to the Uniting for Peace program which we sponsored at the last General Assembly and which was based on such a liberal interpretation of the Charter as to lead some other countries to criticize us for going too far in that direction. As to the matter of amendments, I assured him that we were approaching the problems of revision with the same flexible attitude, both on possible specific Charter amendments and on the problem of general revision which will be considered at the 1955 Conference under Article 109. Nevertheless, in proposing specific amendments it is, of course, necessary to keep in mind that under Article 108 any amendment must be ratified by all permanent members of the SC. Moreover, a flexible approach to the problem of interpretation must still operate within the framework of the clear language of the Charter itself.

As to the specific question of granting Italy a vote in the Trusteeship Council, I stated that we had studied the Charter provisions from [Page 318] every possible angle and were still unable to develop any reasonable theory or rationalization which would justify permitting Italy to have a vote until such time as she became a member of the United Nations. In this respect the language of the Charter is clear and unequivocal.

When Mr. Catalano continued to express the hope that some way might be found to give Italy a vote, I suggested that since we had reached a dead end in our consideration of the legal aspects of the problem it might be useful if the legal experts in the Italian Government who have no doubt been examining this question could indicate to us any plausible theory they might have developed on which to justify such action. We would welcome any ideas they might have and would of course give them serious consideration. Failing that, it seemed to us the question would necessarily have to be disposed of by the next GA by a frank admission that Italy could not be given a vote without Charter amendment and perhaps a reaffirmation of the conclusion that Italy was qualified for full membership.

In response to my question Mr. Catalano indicated that so far as he knew his Government still took the view that it did not desire to have the Assembly grant Italy greater general rights of participation in GA work without vote. I indicated that our thinking was still fluid on this matter and that although we were favorably inclined toward increased Italian participation short of voting, we would not wish to press it on behalf of Italy if the Italian Government itself opposed the idea.