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135 Statement by Hodgson to the Political and Territorial Commission for Italy of the Paris Peace Conference

CP(IT/P) Doc.75 PARIS, 23 September 1946


The Australian Government and delegation at this Peace Conference have always maintained strongly the view that those countries which have made active and sustained contribution in the European sphere of war were entitled to participate in the peace-making, not participate as consultants merely, but as real partners who have proved their worth in the struggle against our enemies, and as such entitled to equal rights in the peace-making process.

2. Twice in this generation our troops have crossed the world for the defence of freedom in Europe. We did not wait to be attacked, but voluntarily entered the struggle and fought from first to last. At the moment we have in mind the effort of our soldiers in North Africa and the Mediterranean right up to the decisive battle of El Alamein. This was the time when Britain, except for the Dominions and India was fighting alone. It was Britain and the Dominions who achieved the first victories, and were mainly responsible for the defeat of the enemy in North Africa and the liberation of the territories we a-re now discussing. With this in mind we find the proposal contained in Article 17 along with the accompanying joint declaration open to objection.

3. The question of the future disposal and administration of the Italian colonies should in our view be determined not by the Council of Four, as contemplated in the Article, but by a larger body which includes representatives of those countries which liberated these territories and earned a vital interest in them.

While appreciating and accepting the major role of the Council of Foreign Ministers in the peace treaty work up to the time of and during this Conference we cannot appreciate the right of these states to arrogate to themselves this right of future decisions regarding peace treaty matters. We believe the proposed solution is also unsound on practical grounds and in the light of actual experience.

5. [1] Look at the wording of the Declaration. It is an agreement to agree on a certain determination within a year. But what are the prospects of this? So far as we can ascertain not one of the disputed articles in any of these treaties has yet been accepted, although some of them have been in dispute for a year, and how likely is it that the Council of Four will agree within another year on this, a most contentious issue? In effect the veto applies here and any one of the Four can effectively block any decision being reached.

6. This apparently was appreciated by the Council of Four, for after stating in paragraph 1 of the Declaration that they agreed to agree, they go on in paragraph 3 to lay down a procedure in the event of their not agreeing. What is this procedure? It is that the matter of disposal shall be referred to the General Assembly of the United Nations for a recommendation. Now it has been generally conceded that the making of the peace treaties is not a matter for the United Nations, and the Secretary-General has made public statements to this effect.

7. This is certainly a question, if ever there was one, for the treaty-making states, and not for the United Nations. There is this consideration also. There are now 54 members of the United Nations, and by the time the question comes up for a recommendation, and most delegates here seem to assume that it will, we will be referring it to a body which will include neutral and ex-enemy states and a majority of non-belligerents.

8. There is this vital consideration also. Delegates will recall that during discussion on the proposal that the Security Council should guarantee the integrity and independence of the Free Territory of Trieste, the Australian delegation submitted the view that the Council had no power or authority whatever to give such a guarantee, and that nothing that this Conference could do could vest it with additional authority. The same argument applies to this question, as this Conference has no power to lay extra functions on the United Nations. The Australian delegation sees no more reason to refer this disputed matter to the United Nations than any other disputed matter in any of these treaties. If the reasons for the reference of this question to the United Nations were sound, why is not the same procedure to be employed in all other disputed issues? In other words why is this one of all specially singled out? Obviously despite paragraph one of their declaration the Council of Foreign Ministers have no hope or faith in their being able to arrive at a decision and they have taken an easy way out of passing the responsibility to another body.

9. The declaration is also obscure in regard to the phrase 'taking into consideration the views of other interested Governments'.

Does this mean those countries who actually did the fighting in North Africa, or those represented at this Conference, or invited to this Conference, or any state which can claim an interest on any ground whatever? How are our views to be taken into consideration? Surely those states who took part in the liberation have a right to take part in the actual decision, and not merely a right such as has been given here to ex-enemy states, just to present our case in writing.

10. These are the reasons for the Australian attitude. We think it more just and more democratic for the question of disposal to be determined by the United States, France, United Kingdom, and U.S.S.R., along with three other states elected by this Conference. If they cannot determine the question within a year, then it is to be referred, not to the United Nations, but back to a meeting of the Allied and Associated Powers of this Conference which could be arranged without difficulty during a meeting of the Assembly of the United Nations. We believe it more fitting and more appropriate that the states who made the material contribution to the winning of the European war should have the responsibility for making the final recommendation for the disposal of these colonies.

11. This principle should apply not only to this particular question, but to all unresolved disputes. The states have been convened here for the very purpose of treaty-making. Either now or at a later time it should be their responsibility and we cannot see why this question of the Italian colonies is not to be settled by them.

1 Paragraph numbering has been reproduced from the original.

[AA:A4311, BOX 524]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013

Category: International relations

Topic: History