18. Instruction From the Department of State to the Embassy in Italy1



  • The South Tyrol question

The Department has noted Rome’s telegram 3151 of March 14, 1956 repeated to Vienna as telegram 90,2 concerning Italo-Austrian discussion of the South Tyrol question. While the matter has not been broached by the Austrians in Washington since the occasion mentioned in the Department’s telegram 2762 to Rome,3 it was twice raised by a representative of the Italian Embassy during the week that began March 5.

The Italian official indicated considerable concern on the part of the Italian Foreign Office over the possibility that the Austrian Government would make an issue of the question with the Italian Government [Page 33] and attempt to enlist the aid of the United States Government. By implication, the Italian official imputed to the Austrian Government unseemly motives in doing so.

The Department reassured him that no official effort to bring the United States Government into the controversy had been made by the Austrian Government, that the Department had received no indication that the matter was being made a major issue by the Austrians and reiterated the United States position expressed in previous Departmental communications to Embassies Rome and Vienna.

It is encouraging to note the attitude of Minister Schoener as reported in the last paragraph of Rome’s telegram 3151,4 and it is assumed that the sensitivity of the Italian Government on the South Tyrol question reflects concern over the continued support of the Segni Government by members of Parliament from the Alto Adige.

With the forthcoming national elections in Austria and administrative elections in Italy, it is conceivable that one or both sides in the South Tyrol issue may find it expedient to exaggerate difficulties in the area concerned by alleging serious injustices. Barring new information concerning difficulties in the implementation of the Gruber–De Gasperi agreement or failure of sincere Italo-Austrian diplomatic efforts to resolve actual problems, the Department foresees no need to alter the present United States position.5

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 765.022/3–2256. Confidential. Drafted by Freund on March 19 and signed by Jones for Dulles. Repeated to Vienna.
  2. Telegram 3151 from Rome reported that newspapers in Rome had announced that Figl and Italian officials had not discussed the South Tyrol question. At Figl’s insistence, Italian officials publicly acknowledged that the issue had been taken up. (Ibid., 765.022/3–1456)
  3. Telegram 2762 to Rome reported that in February, Grauss had informally raised the South Tyrol question with the Department of State, which had maintained a position of nonintervention on the issue. (Ibid., 765.002/2–2556)
  4. Telegram 3151 reported Schoener’s opinion that future negotiations between Austria and Italy on the South Tyrol should be conducted in secret. (Ibid., 765.022/3–1456)
  5. The Embassy in Vienna confirmed that the Austrians had not recently raised the South Tyrol matter with U.S. officials. It further agreed with the assessment of the Department of State and noted that the Austrians were too realistic to expect any major alteration in the South Tyrol situation. (Despatch 823, April 3; ibid., 765.022/4–356)