HC Deb 07 October 1912 vol 42 cc24-5

I desire to ask the Prime Minister a question, of which I have given him private notice, namely: What steps, if any, has His Majesty's Government taken, in accordance with the Berlin Treaty and other obligations, to prevent an outbreak of war in the Balkan Peninsular?


I understand that a question will be asked directly by the Leader of the Opposition as to whether I can make any statement, and I propose to make what statement I can to the House when that time comes.


May I now ask the Foreign Secretary whether there is any statement he can make to the House in regard to the position in the Balkans?


I am afraid my statement can only at the present moment be of a general character, but I will give to the House what information I can. As the House is aware, a very critical state of affairs exists in the Balkans, and gives rise to grave apprehension. The Great Powers are taking what steps they can to prevent a breach of the peace. The two points to which their attention has been mainly directed are the expression of strong disapproval of a breach of the peace in the Balkans and the need for the realisation of reforms in European Turkey. This need has already been admitted by the Turkish Government, and the application of effective reforms ought to secure Turkey in the peaceful possession of her provinces in Europe. The difficulty is, on the one hand, for Turkey to proceed with reforms in face of the mobilisation in the Balkan States, and, on the other hand, to convince the Balkan States that the reforms promised will be effective in securing the welfare of the population in Macedonia. Definite proposals were made yesterday for collective steps to be taken by or on behalf of the Great Powers to overcome these difficulties by representations to the Balkan States and at Constantinople, and we agreed to them. There is the strongest desire between the Great European Powers, who are most directly interested in the Balkans, and whose frontiers would be most affected by war in that region, to see peace preserved; and this is, I trust, a guarantee that, if the peace is broken in the Balkans, none of the Great European Powers will be involved in war.


In the event of the negotiations to which the right hon. Gentleman referred, breaking down, would His Majesty's Government use their good offices to refer the whole dispute to The Hague?


I would rather not anticipate that the steps which the Powers now have in contemplation should fail. Of course, if they do we shall do the utmost we can to preserve unity between the Powers, and not take any initiative or make proposals which are likely to imperil unity.