2-From Conflict toCompromiseTodaytwo surrounding autonomous provinces in the north of Italy, South Tyrol andTrentino constitute an autonomous region called Trentino-Alto.
Before 1919 bothprovinces belonged to the Austrian-Hungarian empire’s region of Tyrol. Even under Austrian control Trentino(Southern) wasalways completely Italian-speaking, while South Tyrol was practically populatedwith German-speaking inhabitants (‘South Tyrolese’ is still used today to referto the local German speakers). With the end of World War I, Trentino and SouthTyrol were integrated into the Italian state by the 1919 Peace Treaty of Saint Germain despite the vast majority ofGerman-speaking inhabitants in South Tyrol.
Inthe succeeding years the Italian government issued executive decrees andlegislation that subjected the inhabitants of South Tyrol to forcedItalianisation, in an attempt to end the presence and influence ofGerman-speakers economically politically and in cultural life, and so schools,trade unions, political parties and names in the German language were allbanned. This forced Italianisation not only was the cause to a deep historicaltrauma and distrust for future Italian policies, but also increased Germannationalism. AfterGermany took over Austria in 1938, Hitler and Mussolini agreed in offering theGerman-speakers of South Tyrol the options of German citizenship in thecondition that they would emigrate and resettle in the German empire otherwisethey would have to accept the Italianisation. 85% percent chose to resettle inGermany but only about one third truly left during the times of war and thevast majority of those returned right after 1945. Inthe end of World War II a peace conference took place in Paris where the Alliesemphasize on the autonomy for South Tyrol, to be negotiated by both parts,Italy and Austria. When invited to the conference to submit its view on thepeace treaty that was going to be discussed with Italy the Austrian governmentasked the South Tyrolean People’s Party – the overall representation of theGerman-speakers in South Tyrol ever since – to send 3 representatives as consultantsin order to make sure that any agreement would have international guarantees. Fromthose negotiations was born the 1946 DeGasperi-Gruber agreement between Austria and Italy, named after two foreignministers, Alcide De Gasperi and Karl Gruber, also known as The Paris Treaty. Thistreaty defends and makes sure:1.
“German-speaking inhabitantswill be assured complete equality of rights with the Italian-speakinginhabitants within the framework of special provisions to safeguard theethnical character and the cultural and economic development of the German-Speaking element.”2. “Thepopulations will be granted the exercise of an autonomous legislative andexecutive regional power. The frame within the said provisions of autonomy willapply, will be drafted in consultation also with local representativeGerman-speaking elements.” This agreement was the foundation fornegotiations on autonomy and Austria’s interest to reach what was on theagreement because they wanted to work as a ‘protecting power’ for theminority’s. But this was for sure not an easy task, as the treaty had a lot ofmisleading wording in crucial parts and so the success of this treaty wasrelying on Italy’s good will and respect of the treaty. Furthermore, it wasunderstandable that Italy tried to get around this contract because Italiansdidn’t get what they most wanted from it, particularly Austrian abdication ofSouth Tyrol.
For the Austrians, the fact that this was the second failedattempt in 30 years to obtain what they wanted for the South Tyrolese peopleled them to believe that an agreement was the only solution. Of course theywouldn’t renounce South Tyrol but instead they would make a temporary agreementwith Italy but in the Italians’ minds this meant that the territorial stabilityof an area where they were in minority would still be in danger. The result ofthis agreement was called the Autonomy Statute which was purely interpretive ofthe Paris-Agreement, and exceptionally applied. Unfortunately, Italy broke the essenceof the agreement in a flash when they provided autonomous powers not to SouthTyrol alone, but instead to the complete autonomous region of Trentino-SouthTyrol, which included the Italian-speaking province of Trentino. This washeartlessly genius, German-speakers from South-Tyrol were outnumbered byItalian ones in the regional government, which controlled political economicaland regional matters while the Italian government continued the policies toindustrialise South Tyrol, which resulted in a growing number of Italianworkers. The German-speaking inhabitants that lived in the south were quick toreact with manifestations and public rallies using the slogan ‘Los vos Trient’which means liberation from Trento. In1955, the Allies, which had taken Austria out of Nazi control during the war,left and Austria regained its sovereignty. Shortly after Austria started aidingthe German-speakers in South Tyrol to obtain greater autonomy.
Yet, all of Austria’s attempts to revive the De Gasperi-Gruber agreement – autonomyfor the province of South Tyrol alone, equal number of ethnicities in allpublic works and equality between the Italian and German languages – were refused by Italy using as justification that allof that was a domestic matter. Afteryears of pointless talks, Austria brought the long discussion regarding theimplementation of the South Tyrolean autonomy on the attention of the UnitedNations General Assembly. The sameGeneral Assembly encouraged all the parties involved to reopen negotiations to solveall discrepancies respecting the implementation of the agreement, that waymaking a clear statement that it was not exclusively an internal Italianaffair. Thestress and pressure to reach a solution increased on both sides and Italy’sgovernment created a diversified commission where both parts could take thefloor and defend their ideas, this commission had 19 members (11 Italians, 7South Tyrolese and 1 Ladin Speaker) and their main objective was to collect proposalsto tackle the issue of autonomy using has support the Gasperi-Gruber agreement. The result of this commission was notsatisfactory but it turned out to be the basis for negotiations along the yearsto come between all the parts involved .
Also, the fact that Italy was backthen in a more receptive and tolerant climate with the centre-left governmentsboosted the negotiations and led to the creation of a compromise in the year of1969. 3-Substance and Status ofthe Compromise The name given to this compromise was ‘The Package ofmeasures in favour of the population of South Tyrol’, hereafter in this essayreferred to as ‘The Package’. It consisted in 137 administrative andlegislative measures the Italian government was willing to adopt in order to expandand reform the South Tyrolean autonomy. The large share of those measures were alreadyin the Autonomy Statute of 1948, which gave name to and resulted in theadoption of the Second Autonomy Statute. The compromise also introduces acalendar with 18 operational stages for implementation with a fixed deadlinefor each stage. The goal with this calendar was that Austria could finallydeclare before the UN that the agreement over the achievement of the DeGasperi-Gruber was resolved and the subject therefore sealed. Boththe Package and operational calendar were approved by the parliaments of Italyand Austria.
The strength of the South Tyrolean German-speakers together withAustria’s backup made it unnecessary to make a referendum in order to reach a compromise,which would probably have created dividing barriers within the ethnic groups, splitthe population and reminded the recent past agreements that never worked. Themain foundations of the Package are:- “thecreation of two autonomous provinces (South Tyrol and Trentino) within theautonomous region of Trentino-South Tyrol, to which broad legislative and administrativepowers will be granted that were previously reserved for the state or theregion”;- “theapplication of the principles of ethnic proportionality and linguistic parityto employment in all state and semi-state bodies in the autonomous province ofSouth-Tyrol, with the exception of the jurisdiction of the ministry of defenceand the national police forces”.Italywas clear making sure that its international obligations regarding the SouthTyrolean autonomy had already been fulfilled but this implementation of the DeGasperi-Gruber agreement was unsatisfactory to them, and insisted that further resolutionsof these problems should be of internal concern only.
They wanted to exclude Austriafrom any intervention in the future, but it comes with no surprise that Austriadid not agree with this selfish view, however, as an act to show goodwill, theyaccepted the adoption of this political compromise. Although the agreement wasnot as strong as a treaty, it was not closer to be just a gentlemen’s agreement,Italy was constrained under international law to respect its commitments. WhileItaly expected Austria to believe that all the measures would be respected andimplemented in time Austria had to cancel all its activities and wait for thePackage and the calendar to be implemented. So Italy had the responsibility to fulfilthis deal because they were benefiting from a trust-based behaviour of Austriaeven if the agreement was purely political and not legally binding. ThisPackage was the supporting foundation of today’s autonomy arrangement that was successfullyimplemented and led to end of the problems between Italy and Austria concerningthis matter.
From now on in the rest of the essay we will deal with the actualimplementation of the Package and see how participative tools and participativegovernance based ideas, even if not called by that name back then, were crucialto the success of the South Tyrolean autonomy implementation, namely the Second Autonomy Statute; the joint commissions andthe products of these negotiations: enactment decrees which establish theessence of the South Tyrolean autonomy.4-The Power of theautonomous province of South Tyrol One ofthe first implementation measures was the reform of the previous statutethrough approval of a new statute, that contained the measures of the formerstatute which would continue in force as well as those of the new autonomystatute, from now on called the Second Autonomy Statute. This so called ‘basiclaw’ has the main principles necessary to the autonomy system and is protected bythe constitutional law within the Italian legal system. Thesecond Autonomy Statute, provided its provinces, South Tyrol and Trentino, withthe autonomous provinces rank, transferring nearly all important legislativeand administrative powers to them as self-regulating systems that help morecomplex systems like countries or companies to work better because it reducesthe dependency between systems. As a result, South Tyrol’s autonomous powersare surprisingly brilliant, not only when placed side by side with otherminority-situations, but even in comparison with its northern neighbour Tyrol,a member state of federal Austria. Theywere now responsible for economic, cultural, and social matters that include: coordinateprovincial offices and workers; geographical naming , that should respect bilingualismin the region; preservation and recovery of historical sites and their usage;town and country strategy planning; environmental and natural resource issues; localtransport; local communications; local economy control measures(e.g.
agriculture, forestry, hunting, fishing, tourism…); public works; water works;public welfare; kindergartens, professional education etc. As long as SouthTyrol respects the legal agreements and the national interests they are free toadminister these fields at their own will. Butnot everything was a bed of roses and there are still legislations to respect thatare standard across Italy, so even if it seems self-management they are notcompletely free is some subjects. These includes local police issues,elementary and secondary education, roads, electricity, industrial protection,water supplies, hygiene and public health (including hospital services) as wellas some other issues that require more attention and safety from the government.Still, that didn’t stop them from earning a large number of additionalcompetences not foreseen or guaranteed in the autonomy statute when the SecondAutonomy Statute was settled, but they were able to do it in negotiations withthe Italian government. Everything mentioned aboveregarding legislative and also executive powers apply to both South Tyrol andTrentino.
But there are some special provisions concerning the relationsbetween the linguistic groups resident in the province that apply only to SouthTyrol.