No. 186
Acting Foreign Minister Bebler to the Secretary of State 1

I wish to express my appreciation for the message of April 132 on the Trieste issue which you sent me in my capacity of Acting Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. To my Government it was a new evidence of the desire of the United States and British Governments that an agreed and final settlement of that issue be found in the present negotiations, and this entirely corresponds to the wishes of my Government, too. Therefore, we also regret that the negotiations in London have suffered such a delay. However, we cannot agree with the opinion that the responsibility for it would rest upon us. On the basic, i.e., the territorial question, we have made the maximum possible sacrifices. We in fact conceded not only Trieste, but also the entire remaining part of Zone A, including pure Slovene areas both on the coast and in the hinterland. If [Page 415] today it can be said that this question—the most difficult one—is settled, it should be noted that the settlement was reached exclusively owing to our utmost conceding.

We have expected that our good will and sacrifices as to the fundamental question would be reciprocated by a favorable attitude toward our position on the other, relatively minor points. We expected that on these points such solutions would be found which would make it possible for our public opinion to accept, though with deep dissatisfaction, the entire settlement of the issue, and this not as an imposed solution but as a real agreement. Indeed, only such an agreement would be what all the interested Governments ought to be striving for—the avenue to still better relations between Yugoslavia and the Western Great Powers, and to good neighborly and friendly relations between Yugoslavia and Italy.

Yet to our regret we had to note that we could not find the expected understanding by our partners in the negotiations, and this just in the present final stage of the negotiations in which extreme efforts with a view to reaching an agreement on all the questions are made on our side. In these efforts we accepted the compromise proposals of our partners on a series of questions such as the Statute of the Trieste Port, the future consular representations, etc.

Nevertheless some questions are still open although in regard to them too the Yugoslav side made considerable concessions. These are: the question of funds for the development of Kopar, which is indispensable for the needs of the direct hinterland of Trieste deprived of its civic and economic center; the question of reparations which can be quickly resolved with a minimum good will from the Italian side; and the question of the protection of the new Yugoslav ethnic minority which will fall under Italian authority upon the annexation of Trieste to Italy.

To this last matter public opinion in Yugoslavia is extremely sensitive. The fate of Yugoslav minorities under Italy in the past—particularly between the two wars—as well as at present, has been and remains one of the principal moral impediments to friendly relations between Yugoslavia and Italy. My Government considers it, therefore, absolutely essential that the agreement on Trieste should include as its component part such provisions which our public opinion could consider as a sufficient guarantee against any future denationalizing pressure on the new Yugoslav minority in Italy.

In view of the above we anticipate in London: First, that the AMG in Trieste will assume the obligation to restitute and indemnify as soon as possible and in any case prior to the Five Power Conference the estates of Slovene cultural organizations (Homes of Culture) which had been taken under the fascist rule. Second, that [Page 416] the Agreement on Trieste will contain such principles of the Minority Statute as the equality of both languages in that area, the right of the minority to an unhampered cultural life, schooling, etc. (this Statute would apply also to the Italian minority in the region incorporated into Yugoslavia). Third, that Italy will assume the obligation—in whatever form, even if by a unilateral declaration—that Trieste and the Trieste region shall receive a certain autonomy (self-government) within Italy, which is indispensable both because of its bilingual character and its specific economic function (for this latter reason the entire Trieste population regardless of ethnic origin wishes and expects such autonomy).

In our view the above position will entirely be acceptable to the other Governments concerned, including the Italian Government. Therefore, in our judgment the agreement on the Trieste issue is within reach. We are confident that with due regard to the above circumstances, in a search for a settlement politically acceptable to Yugoslavia, mutual efforts could result in an agreement within the shortest time.3

  1. This message was presented to Acting Secretary Smith by Ambassador Mates in Washington on Apr. 21. A memorandum of the brief conversation between Mates and Smith at that time is in file 750G.00/4–2154.
  2. Transmitted in Document 183.
  3. The source text is not signed.