The Brisbane Courier
10th YEAR OF PUBLICATION.
TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 11, 1923.
ITALY AND THE BALKANS.
Superficially, the political atmosphere in Southern Europe is calmer than it has been for some days, and for the mument the tempest of jingoism in Italy has been subdued by the humilia- tion of a weaker nation and the prospects of a heavy indemnity for a deed that probably was committed by Albanian brigands. Whether the decision of the Ambassadors' Conference is likely to end the jealousies and national animosities that are surging through the Balkans, or to stifle the outburst of dangerous ultra-Nationalism in Italy, is quite another matter, because the cause of this sudden international upheaval lies far deeper than the murder of General Telini on the Janina Road on the Greek side of the Albanian frontier. The general and his party were members of an inter-Allied
boundary-fixing comission, and as the murder was committed on Greek soil Greece was technically guilty because each nation visited by one of those many inter-Allied commissions is re- quired to guarantee their safety. Assume that such a crime had been committed on French, British, or American soil, nobody is likely to think that Signor Mussolini would have ordered out his fleet to bombard some possession belonging to one of those nations. So far there is no proof that the crime was committed by a Greek, the inference being that it was done by a band of Albanian bandits who infest the mountains in that neighbour- hood. Immediately the announcement was made Greece expressed regret for the incident, offered compensation, and set its machinery in order to investi- gate the murder. But Signor Mussolini saw an opportunity to save his waning popularity. Four Greek vessels in italian waters were seized, an Italian squadron shelled and took possession of the Island of Corfu, which Italy has coveted for a generation, and she made demands on Greece which were quite as drastic as they ought to have been if the Greek Government had actually authorised the murder of General Telini. It was clearly the duty of the League of Nations to intercade, but Mussolini defied its authority; and he consented to the adjudication of the obviously partisan Ambassadors' Conference only when he realised that world opinion was against him. That conference has solved the awkward problem by giving it an inter-Allied character and by
passing sentence on Greece before it is known whether Greace is anything more than technically guilty.
No matter how much the fact is smothered the plain truth stands revealed that the League of Nations, actually in session at the time, was ignored. But the incident is not finished by any means. Italy still holds Corfu, which makes her undisputed mistreas of the Adriatic. Whether she will evacuate Corfu after Greece has carried out the conditions of sentence remains to be seen, because there is not the slightest doubt that the real cause of trouble is that old disturbing "Adriatic question " which has been the cause of many Balkan troubles, and is likely to be the cause of many more. Immediately after the Treaty of Rapallo was drafted a very shrewd German journalist predicted that the Adriatic question would soon provide abundant discord for the Allies. Gabrielle D'Annunzio proved the truth of that prediction when he led his filibustering assault on Fiume. Italy had to waive her claims eventually to Fiume, but Corfu is a much more strategic point, and she might not be disposed to leave Corfu so easily, especially as the occupation of that island can hardly come within the province of the Ambassadors' Confer- ence, and the League of Nations will have completed its session before Greece can comply with the necessary terms. Italy bases her claims to the Dalmatian frontier, to Fiume, and various Adriatic islands on the grounds that they belonged to her in the days when Rome and afterwards Venice were world cities, and also because they are inhabited by a large percentage of Italians. Signor Mussolini himself has advanced those arguments, and the Italian Press has echoed them. Obviously the historical argument is of very little value, otherwise, on pre- cisely the same grounds. France, Britain, and Spain might be claimed with equal justice. The ethnological ground is equally weak, because while Italy probably does provide the life and culture of the Dalmatian towns Jugo- Slavia has the overwhelming majority of subjects. In a book published a few weeks ago, entitled "The Fascist Move- ment in Italian Life," by Dr. Pietro Gorgolini, to which Signor Mussolini himself contributes a long approving introduction, we are told in plain English, or perhaps we had better say plain Italian, in which the original was written, that the Treaty of Rapallo " must go" "That." the author says, " is a plain inevitable fact as soon as a favourble juncture presents itself." We are told that Jugo-Slavia "was a mere plethoric anti-Italian device " pre- pared by Lloyd George and Wilson to deprive Italy of her historic Dalmatian rights, and Mussolini will not accept such "a monstrous abandonment of her claims dating back to the glorious Italy of Virgil and Dante." When such jingoism as that is sweeping through the country an Italian-Balkan war seems a dangerously near possibility.