HC Deb 12 May 1952 vol 500 cc860-5
Mr. Eden

With your permission, Mr. Speaker, and that of the House, I desire to make a statement.

The House will be aware that the conversations between representatives of Her Majesty's Government, the United States Government and the Italian Government on the subject of administration in Zone A of the Free Territory of Trieste were concluded on Friday, 9th May. The Memorandum of Understanding embodying the arrangements to be carried out was made available to hon. Members on 10th May as a White Paper, and I have thought it right to take this first opportunity to make a brief statement on the subject.

Let me first say something about the new arrangements. The essence of the matter is this. While all powers of government in the zone are retained by the Zone Commander, a large block of the civil government will henceforward be administered, under the Zone Commander's direction, by an Italian Director of Administration. The remaining functions of government will continue to be administered by the Zone Commander direct through United Kingdom and United States officials.

These latter functions—which, I repeat, will be administered direct through United Kingdom and United States officials—include the control of the police, of the port and all telecommunications; the enactment of legislation and the administration of justice; and other functions connected with the exercise of international responsibilities assumed by the United Kingdom and United States Governments in the Zone. The Zone Commander remains responsible for policy direction and will make whatever arrangements he sees fit to co-ordinate the administration as a whole. The Italian Government will be able to make their views on all matters affecting Italy through an Italian Political Adviser.

As emphasised in the joint communiqué issued at the same time as the Memorandum, the new administrative arrangements in Zone A are designed to give greater practical recognition to the predominantly Italian character of the Zone; and I may say here that, even before the talks took place, the Italians were, in fact, already handling many administrative functions inside Allied Military Government. At the same time, both the United Kingdom and United States Governments have had very much in mind the international obligations and responsibilities which they have assumed in the Zone and I am satisfied that there is nothing in the new arrangements which will impair their ability and intention to carry out those responsibilities.

I should like to assure the House that the United Kingdom and United States Governments have throughout had in mind the natural Yugoslav interest in the outcome of these talks. While it has not been possible to keep the Yugoslav Government informed of every stage in the long and complicated negotiations—they lasted nearly six weeks and involved a detailed examination of all aspects of the existing structure of the government in the Zone—contact has been maintained both in London and Belgrade. The limited scope of the talks was repeatedly explained to the Yugoslav Government. On 9th May I gave the Yugoslav Ambassador full information in advance of the agreements reached and I handed him advance copies of the Memorandum of Understanding and of the communiqué. Similar action was taken by Her Majesty's Ambassador in Belgrade.

I regret that Marshal Tito should have felt it necessary to attack the new arrangements. We have given our assurance that nothing has been done to impair our ability and intention to carry out our responsibilities in Zone A. In particular, I cannot accept that there has been any violation of the provisions of the Italian Peace Treaty. On the contrary, Her Majesty's Government and the United States Government are satisfied that the administrative adjustments which we have agreed upon—adjustments which, in our view, we are fully entitled to make—leave the basic juridical position in the Zone unchanged.

I would conclude by expressing the firm conviction that the new arrangements, confined as they are to administration in Zone A, are entirely without prejudice to the final solution of the problem of the future of the Free Territory as a whole. As I have said more than once, Her Majesty's Government are most anxious that a settlement should be reached as soon as possible by direct conversations between the Italian and Yugoslav Governments.

Mr. H. Morrison

We are obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for his statement, but I should like to ask him if he is aware that many of us are genuinely worried about the effect of these discussions on Yugoslavia, and the relationship between Yugoslavia, Italy and ourselves?

Is not it clear from his statement that Yugoslavia was not given substantial information until about the Friday or the Saturday, until the end of the discussions? Has he noticed that Marshal Tito has expressed indignation about these conversations; and would he—I speak in all sincerity on this matter, and with no desire to score any points—keep in mind and do all he can to bring into direct consultation Italy and Yugoslavia, if necessary with us and the United States? Does he realise that this problem will not be settled adequately if Yugoslavia is kept out of the consultations?

Mr. Eden

Yes, Sir, I very much agree with all the latter part of the statement of the right hon. Gentleman. Indeed, from the outset we have tried to make it plain that we are dealing—as it is evident to the whole world that we are—solely with the administration of Zone A and nothing else; and, as the right hon. Gentleman knows very well, there is an entirely Anglo-American responsibility towards that area.

I am sorry, as I said, that there should be any view that we have gone beyond what we should, but I simply cannot accept it because, as I must point out, even at this time the power exerted by the Yugoslav Government in Zone B far and away exceeds those that any Italians will exert now in Zone A. The right hon. Gentleman also will bear in mind that it was the late Government who declared in 1948 that both Zones should go to the Italian Government, and that has not exactly facilitated the present negotiations.

Mr. Hector McNeil

The right hon. Gentleman is legally right. But would not he agree that the political consequences of the legal actions are very wide indeed, and that he gave an assurance to my hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, East (Mr. Ernest Davies) that he would keep the Yugoslav Government informed—I think he said daily? Would not he agree that he was risking substantial political consequences by not handing them the full documents until 9th May?

Mr. Eden

I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that I wanted to keep the Yugoslav Government as closely informed as I could. But anybody who has had dealings in international negotiations of this kind will know that it was not in my power to do so before I knew what shape the final arrangements were going to take. We were dealing with a large number of complicated administrative matters, and what we did was to tell them as far as we could stage by stage. But it was not possible to bring the Yugoslav Government into discussions on administrative arrangements in a zone for which we are responsible. If I had done so chances of agreement would have been absolutely ruled out.

Mr. Ernest Davies

Would not the Foreign Secretary agree that it would have been possible to take Yugoslavia into the confidence of the people at the Conference? Surely it was possible to inform them more than by handing them Press communiques, which was all that was done, and by reading to them the final communique at the end. Does the Foreign Secretary realise that we cannot reach agreement on administrative actions in Zone A without prejudice to the future settlement, because the fact that this has brought the Zone more under Italian administration tends to pre-judge the future disposition of that Zone and adequate protection to the minorities in the Zone?

Mr. Eden

The hon. Gentleman is wrong in his final conclusion. There is a special Article dealing with the minorities. I must point out that what we have done in response to a request from the Italian Government, which surely the House does not suggest that we should have rejected, is to give them some further powers of administration when the late Government had told them that they could have the whole of Zone A and Zone B. In one of the most difficult negotiations we have ever seen we have done our utmost to go a step towards a final solution. I hope that the parties will talk together and I hope that both sides of the House will encourage them to talk together.

I assure that hon. Gentleman that I should have liked very much to give more detailed information as we went along. If I had, I should only have misled the Yugoslav Government, because the final form of the negotiations was not the same as at the beginning and we should have been involved in endless and tortuous delay. I hope that the House will help the American Government and ourselves to get both parties to stop polemics and get down to direct negotiations.

Mr. Davies

I am sure that all of us desire direct negotiations to take place, but does not the right hon. Gentleman think the position has been made more difficult and that it will be very difficult for the Yugoslays and the Italians to get together now? Does he not think that the time might arise when we can assist in reaching some agreement?

Mr. Eden

This really is the kind of situation where the negotiator has only a choice of difficulties. I had to take the step of promoting the negotiations. I could not have turned down the request, which was a reasonable one. What I have done was to try to get a step by step solution of the matter, which was the only way to proceed. The Italians have far less powers of administration in Zone A than the Yugoslavs have in Zone B. I hope that they will get together and try to find a way.