115. Telegram From the Embassy in Austria to the Department of State0

1976. For O’Connor from McCollum. Hanes and I with Emb officers today (January 11th) discussed with Interior Minister Helmer and his staff problem Yugoslav refugees. We offered: 1) $3 million Title II PL 4801 surplus commodities for camp feeding but not for resale, 2) approximately $700,000 USEP assistance for processing, visa documentation, and resettlement support, and 3) continued US contribution to ICEM for emigrant transportation.

Helmer reacted strongly insisting that they do not meet either Austrian financial requirement or, to him, more important problem of moving Yugoslavs from Austrian territory. He states that Austria, because of free world unwillingness to take Yugoslavs off Austrian hands, must now consider closing border to all but Yugoslav political refugees, with appropriate explanation to world press of reasons for this decision.

With reference Title II proposal, Helmer requested that we seek change in principle which would permit straight Title II program, as was done in case Hungarians, permitting sale of surplus agricultural commodities in Austria, proceeds of which would be used Austrian Govt to cover Yugoslav refugee costs.

Embassy itself also feels strongly, on basis of past difficulties with handling programs involving surplus commodities for camp feeding, that this policy switch should be made.

Believe reconsideration should also take into account fact that program is fundamentally one of aid to refugees which is recognized as in interests entire free world, and therefore much less likely produce adverse reaction such exporting countries as Canada and Holland based on market considerations. Austrian food market itself has been swelled by influx refugees, which fact likely further minimize any possible disruptive effect of local sale of surplus commodities. Embassy naturally fully aware such potential difficulties, but believes commodities can be offered and program handled so as to preclude difficulties, as was case with similar highly successful $10 million Hungarian refugee operation.

Accordingly, we and Embassy urge that original OCB policy2 be reinstated and approval be given by Department and ICA; also suggest [Page 306] preliminary inquiry possibility utilizing 1957 unused ICEM funds for transportation.

Re movement of Yugoslavs out of Austria, we recommended that Austrian Government request ICEM at Geneva to urge ICEM member countries at working party conference in Washington February 3 make strong appeal accelerate immigration of Yugoslav refugees.

Request earliest possible communication to Embassy repeat Geneva for McCollum re Title II policy in order permit further exploratory conversations with Interior Ministry and other appropriate Austrian authorities.

Assume similar reaction Italians and therefore above request on OCB policy should apply both countries.3

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 768.00/1–1358. Secret.
  2. For text of P.L. 480, the Agricultural Trade and Assistance Act of 1954, see 68 Stat. 454.
  3. At its December 11, 1957, meeting the OCB approved a special report on Yugoslav defectors in Austria and Italy that limited the amount of financial aid available. The OCB report and other documentation on refugee policy are in Department of State, OCB Files: Lot 62 D 430, Escapee Program.
  4. A note on the source text reads: “answer wired previous to receipt of this wire. No answer this particular cable required. SCA; S.L. Wagerheim 1/15/58.” The answer has not been identified.