Today the end of World War I, Trentino

two surrounding autonomous provinces in the north of Italy, South Tyrol and
Trentino constitute an autonomous region called Trentino-Alto. Before 1919 both
provinces belonged to the Austrian-Hungarian empire’s region of Tyrol. Even under Austrian control Trentino(Southern) was
always completely Italian-speaking, while South Tyrol was practically populated
with German-speaking inhabitants (‘South Tyrolese’ is still used today to refer
to the local German speakers). With the end of World War I, Trentino and South
Tyrol were integrated into the Italian state by the 1919 Peace Treaty of Saint Germain despite the vast majority of
German-speaking inhabitants in South Tyrol.                                                                                           In
the succeeding years the Italian government issued executive decrees and
legislation that subjected the inhabitants of South Tyrol to forced
Italianisation, in an attempt to end the presence and influence of
German-speakers economically politically and in cultural life, and so schools,
trade unions, political parties and names in the German language were all
banned. This forced Italianisation not only was the cause to a deep historical
trauma and distrust for future Italian policies, but also increased German
nationalism.               After
Germany took over Austria in 1938, Hitler and Mussolini agreed in offering the
German-speakers of South Tyrol the options of German citizenship in the
condition that they would emigrate and resettle in the German empire otherwise
they would have to accept the Italianisation. 85% percent chose to resettle in
Germany but only about one third truly left during the times of war and the
vast majority of those returned right after 1945.              

the end of World War II a peace conference took place in Paris where the Allies
emphasize 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 the
peace treaty that was going to be discussed with Italy the Austrian government
asked the South Tyrolean People’s Party – the overall representation of the
German-speakers in South Tyrol ever since – to send 3 representatives as consultants
in order to make sure that any agreement would have international guarantees. From
those negotiations was born the 1946 De
Gasperi-Gruber agreement between Austria and Italy, named after two foreign
ministers, Alcide De Gasperi and Karl Gruber, also known as The Paris Treaty. This
treaty defends and makes sure:

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1.     “German-speaking inhabitants
will be assured complete equality of rights with the Italian-speaking
inhabitants within the framework of special provisions to safeguard the
ethnical character and the cultural and economic development of the German-
Speaking element.”

populations will be granted the exercise of an autonomous legislative and
executive regional power. The frame within the said provisions of autonomy will
apply, will be drafted in consultation also with local representative
German-speaking elements.”                                       


This agreement was the foundation for
negotiations on autonomy and Austria’s interest to reach what was on the
agreement because they wanted to work as a ‘protecting power’ for the
minority’s. But this was for sure not an easy task, as the treaty had a lot of
misleading wording in crucial parts and so the success of this treaty was
relying on Italy’s good will and respect of the treaty. Furthermore, it was
understandable that Italy tried to get around this contract because Italians
didn’t get what they most wanted from it, particularly Austrian abdication of
South Tyrol. For the Austrians, the fact that this was the second failed
attempt in 30 years to obtain what they wanted for the South Tyrolese people
led them to believe that an agreement was the only solution. Of course they
wouldn’t renounce South Tyrol but instead they would make a temporary agreement
with Italy but in the Italians’ minds this meant that the territorial stability
of an area where they were in minority would still be in danger. The result of
this agreement was called the Autonomy Statute which was purely interpretive of
the Paris-Agreement, and exceptionally applied.


Unfortunately, Italy broke the essence
of the agreement in a flash when they provided autonomous powers not to South
Tyrol alone, but instead to the complete autonomous region of Trentino-South
Tyrol, which included the Italian-speaking province of Trentino. This was
heartlessly genius, German-speakers from South-Tyrol were outnumbered by
Italian ones in the regional government, which controlled political economical
and regional matters while the Italian government continued the policies to
industrialise South Tyrol, which resulted in a growing number of Italian
workers. The German-speaking inhabitants that lived in the south were quick to
react with manifestations and public rallies using the slogan ‘Los vos Trient’
which means liberation from Trento.

1955, the Allies, which had taken Austria out of Nazi control during the war,
left and Austria regained its sovereignty. Shortly after Austria started aiding
the German-speakers in South Tyrol to obtain greater autonomy. Yet, all of Austria’s attempts to revive the De Gasperi-Gruber agreement – autonomy
for the province of South Tyrol alone, equal number of ethnicities in all
public works and equality between the Italian and German languages – were refused by Italy using as justification that all
of that was a domestic matter.

years of pointless talks, Austria brought the long discussion regarding the
implementation of the South Tyrolean autonomy on the attention of the United
Nations General Assembly. The same
General Assembly encouraged all the parties involved to reopen negotiations to solve
all discrepancies respecting the implementation of the agreement, that way
making a clear statement that it was not exclusively an internal Italian

stress and pressure to reach a solution increased on both sides and Italy’s
government created a diversified commission where both parts could take the
floor and defend their ideas, this commission had 19 members (11 Italians, 7
South Tyrolese and 1 Ladin Speaker) and their main objective was to collect proposals
to tackle the issue of autonomy using has support the Gasperi-Gruber agreement.

 The result of this commission was not
satisfactory but it turned out to be the basis for negotiations along the years
to come between all the parts involved . Also, the fact that Italy was back
then in a more receptive and tolerant climate with the centre-left governments
boosted the negotiations and led to the creation of a compromise in the year of