Sunday, October 5, 2014

Statement of Leopold Vaccaro on Fiume

Here we have the statements of Dr. Leopold Vaccaro, who spoke before the United States senate on September 5, 1919, on how the people of the free city of Fiume chose to be part of Italy, but their right to self-determination was rejected:
Leaving to others the task of discussing the historical, geographical, ethnological, and practical reasons whereby Fiume and Dalmatia should be incorporated in the Italian kingdom, I would like only to say a few words about the right of self-determination which some statesmen would deny to the inhabitants of Fiume.

It has been said that Italy asked for Fiume only after the fall of the Hapsburg dynasty, but the truth of the whole matter is this: It has been Fiume itself that has expressed its desire to be annexed to Italy, exercising its right of self-disposition in full accord with the declaration made by the President of the United States. Moreover, Fiume placed itself under the protection of the people of the United States in the event that some opposition might be made in the exercise of such a sacred right and finally by public proclamation declared herself annexed to Italy, when rightly or wrongly, the people of Fiume thought that their right of self-determination was becoming a matter of bargain for some of the peace conference delegates. The question now arises was Fiume entitled to exercise the right of self-determination as such right was understood by the President of the United States? If there ever was a State, a community in Europe, which knew what self-determination meant, and how to exercise such a right, that community or State was Fiume.

The citizens of the free community or free municipality of Fiume decided on July 20, 1530, to place themselves under the protection of Ferdinand I, under certain conditions, accepting certain duties but without renunciation to the personality of the community, whose historical boundaries were recognized by imperial patents issued by Emperor Ferdinand himself. On the force of that patent Fiume was annexed to the crown, but as a separate body, corpus separatum and its status was confirmed by Maria Theresa in 1789, and by the Hungarian Parliament in 1868. In plain words, up to October 30, 1918, the empire of the Hapsburgs was formed by three States, viz, Austria, Hungary, and Fiume. With the collapse of the Hapsburgs, the compact stipulated between them and Fiume became void and null, and the citizens of Fiume, free again of any ties or obligations, decided to annex themselves to Italy. This decision was a bona fide one and was taken through the proper and right channels and in a politically legal form.

Now if we were to trust what has been said here and there, it would appear that when Fiume proclaimed her annexation to Italy on the basis of her right of self-determination, a sort of a dilemma was put to Italy by her allies: If you take Fiume, then the treaty of London shall be considered void and null, because Fiume was excluded from the pact; if you want the fulfillment of the Treaty of London, then Fiume must go to Croatia. I must candidly confess that I am not able to follow the argument.

Let us suppose that Fiume was excluded from the pact of London for unselfish reasons, for the reason that Austria-Hungary could not be deprived as a nation (republic or empire does not matter) of an outlet to the sea. At that time nobody hoped that Italy would be able to completely crush the Austrian dynasty, and perhaps it was right to leave Fiume to Austria. But now, with the break-up of the Austrian Empire, we have Austria, Czechoslovakia, and Hungary, who have become inland powers and who consequently have as much right to Fiume as Switzerland has to Genoa or Marseille. Fiume is an independent body, and as such, exercising its right of self-determination, chooses to be annexed to Italy. How could and why should Italy lose the rights acquired by the treaty of London in accepting the decision of the free state of Fiume?

We have been told that it is because the new State called Jugoslavia needs an outlet to the sea. But what do they mean when they say Jugo-Slavia? If it is a question of Croatia, Bosnia, Herzegovina, and Serbia as a whole, it is clear that Fiume is not the natural outlet to the sea of any of them. The future of Serbia points "toward the south" will be our motto from now on, wrote Prof. Ciwije, of Belgrade University, in 1913, and he was thinking of Saloniki.

On August 6, 1916, the Serbian Premier Pasic said. "We can not deny the incontestable right of Italy to the hegemony of both sides of the Adriatic. We are only looking for an economical outlet," and such an outlet was considered more than sufficient in a strip of territory between Ragusa and Cattaro 3 miles long. And again, another Serbian official said. "The harbors of Dalmatia are useless to us, because they are eccentric to Serbia." And so they are, especially Fiume, which is the most eccentric of them all. What has been said of Serbia can be applied to Bosnia and Herzegovina, which lie between Serbia and the Adriatic.

Then Fiume would be the natural outlet of Croatia. But it is not, since only 7 per cent of all the trade passing through Fiume is Croatian and only 13 per cent of the import and export commerce of Jugoslavia pass through Fiume. Then it appears clearly that the Croatians want Fiume not for their trade, but to acquire a predominance over Hungary, the Bohemians and Germans, substituting themselves for the detested Hapsburgs. It is for the reason that the Croatians want to resuscitate another powerful Austria that the people of Fiume protest against being forcibly annexed to Jugoslavia: that the Italians naturally can not suffer their brethren to be again subjected to the gallows of their oppressors, and Italy wishes to insure her security on the Dalmatian coast. It should be born in mind that Croatia already has natural outlets, e. g. Buccari, Porto Re, Carlo Pago, and Segna; Serbia and Herzegovina have [annexed] Trau and Spalato, Marcassa, Gravosa and Ragusa, Castelnuovo, Cattaro, Antivari and Metcovitch...

We know that Jugo-Slavia has plenty of harbors for its present and future commerce. The statement often made by Jugo-Slavs that Italy wants to block forever Jugo-Slav commercial expansion by taking over the Dalmatian coast is absolute falsehood. The Serbians wanted only 3 miles and instead they have now more than 600. Italy has claimed no more than 200 miles, excluding for instance Spalato, which makes its living almost exclusively on Italian trade. In fact, Spalato has an electric plant for the production of 60,000 horsepower, built by the Italians with Italian capital, and from Spalato 400,000 tons of cement were yearly exported to Italy.

Italy wanted a part of Dalmatia which had retained its Italian character and some Dalmatian islands which constitute a tremendous danger to her. These islands can hide and protect by a system of mine laying the navy of Jugo-Slavia or any other allies, which could attack at will the occidental coast of the Adriatic, studded with beautiful cities, and return safely to their abodes before the Italian Navy might be able to defend the coast. The recent war has confirmed Italy in her conviction that she needs protection on that side. Unable to confute such military reasons the Jugo-Slavs say it was all right to seek protection in the past, but now we have the league of nations. It is fine rhetoric and fine philosophy, but a league that has to hang on another league of three nations to be of any value arouses great suspicion of its own protective value. I can not blame the Italians if they demand a more tangible form of protection.

The last argument used by the Jugo-Slavs is that the majority of the population in Dalmatia is Slavic. Therefore these lands fall to Jugo-Slavia on the principle of nationality. Now, the question of nationality has nothing to do with the question as to how many Slavs will be included within Italy's frontiers or to how many Germans will be included within the French frontier on the Rhine.

Dalmatia is claimed by Italy as unredeemed land, just as Transylvania is claimed by Roumania and Alsace-Lorraine by France.

In Transylvania there are 1,472,021 Roumanians and 1,206,346 Magyars and Germans. In Alsace and Lorraine before the war there was the following proportion between Germans and French:

Lorraine—481,460 Germans, 73 per cent; 146,097 French, 27 per cent.

Upper Alsace—481,375 Germans, 93 per cent; 31,771 French, 6 per cent.

Lower Alsace—671,425 Germans. 96 per cent; 26,394 French, 3.7 per cent.

In all, 1,634,260 Germans, 87 per cent; 204,662 French, 10 per cent.

I don't care to belittle the sacred aspirations of France, but wish to demonstrate that the proportions existing in Dalmatia between Italians and Slavs is more or less equivalent to that existing between the French and Germans in Alsace and Lorraine, two provinces which were restored to France without discussion. This shows that the principle of nationality can not be defined by the simple process of counting heads, by taking the individual out of his surroundings, out of his national traditions, out of his political and social ties, with his forerunners and the people living around him at present. If you take him out of the whole series or interdependent national relations you make the individual universal. You make of him an antisocial and antipolitical being. You do, in other words, what the Bolsheviks have done in Russia and elsewhere. The Slavs in Slavia and Dalmatia, as well as the Germans in Alsace and Lorraine, can not be separated from their environment and considered as individuals. The Slavs find themselves in territory which is Italian historically, geographically, and by right of strategic necessity. They must bow to this condition, because it is more important to the world that a great nation should be made secure than the liking of a few thousand individuals should not be thwarted.

... That is not the case of Fiume, however, whose people are entitled to the principle of self-determination, nor the case of that part of Dalmatia which was assigned to Italy by the Treaty of London that is indispensable to the security of a nation of 40,000,000 inhabitants, a nation which has paid the full price in blood, suffering, and wealth to acquire that security. Because that part of Dalmatia was under the yoke of the Hapsburgs, it has been possible for the Austrian fleet, a few hours after the declaration of war, to pour upon cities and destroy churches and schools, to kill women and children, and fly away, refusing, up to the last, the challenge of the Italian sailors. Should a new war break again, in spite of all our efforts, in five years or in a century, the Italians do not want a repetition of what happened in the past. They want that the churches and cities be spared that the priests might pray and women toil and children grow in safety at least. It is for the assurance of such a future that more than 500,000 Italians died on the battle fields, more than 900,000 were severely wounded, and millions and millions of men, women, and children suffered cold and hunger and swallowed silently their bitter tears. They hoped for the justice of Italy's allies, and especially America, and they must not have hoped in vain.
—Dr. Leopold Vaccaro, Hearing Before the Committee on Foreign Relations, United States Senate, Sixty-Sixth Congress, September 5, 1919