THE ITALO-GREEK CRISIS.
What the League of Nations Did.
By Professor Darnley Naylor. Viscount Grey, in a letter to the news- papers on October 8, wrote: — "The Italo- Greek episode exhibited the use of force in the roughest form as a first step, and the matter was closed by a decision not based on justice." M. Poincare, in a speech delivered on October 7, said:— "Only recently, by loyal co-operation in the Conference of Ambassadors and the League of Nations, England and France have contributed to allay conflicts which might have disturbed the peace of Europe." Sir Joseph Cook, in an inter- view with the Australian Press Associa- tion at Geneva, on September 30, said:— 'The Ambassadors' Conference, whose ser- vants were foully murdered, insisted on exercising condign judgment. My impres- sion is that had the League done it, the result would not have been very different, if at all. It is also safe to say that the League played a greater part in the settle- ment than is popularly supposed.'
If those on the spot can reach con- clusions to divergent, it is not likely that we, in Australia, can decide whether the League has succeeded in this matter or failed. But a review of the facts, while fresh in our memories, will do something to dispel the mist of doubt, and the pur- pose of this article is to state the events in their proper order, and so enable any thinking person to give a rational verdict on the evidence forthcoming. Frontier Questions. The Conference of Ambassadors has taken go prominent a part that it is welt to go back to the year 1913, when, at the close of the Balkan War, this conference came into existence for the purpose of re- arranging the Balkan States after the combatants had fought to a standstill. One of their earliest decisions was to make Albania a sovereign State. They even arranged for a German princeling to take the throne. But before the frontiers of Albania were fixed, the European War broke out, and Albania's sovereignty be- came the plaything of the Allies. In 1915 Albania was promised to Italy; in 1920 to Serbia, Greece, and Italy; in 1921 she became a member of the League, and then, but not before, the Conference of Ambassadors woke up and claimed the right to delimit the frontiers. The attempt by Serbia to seize the nor- thern districts, the threat against Serbia of blockade by the League, and the quick withdrawal of Serbian troops is a piece of
history which marks the beginning oi a new and better order. The northern frontier was then settled once for all. But the southern frontier had not been fixed; and during August last a commission, con sisting of English, French, and Italian offi- cials, was engaged in this work on behalf of the Conference of Ambassadors. The Janina Incident. On August 28, at Janina, in Greece, and close to the Albanian frontier, Gen. Telini and two other Italians were shot by un- known assassins. The next day Italy de- manded reparation, from Greece, and the Italian fleet began to concentrate. This was Wednesday, and on Thursday the Greek Government received a note from the Ambassadors' Conference protesting against the crime, and demanding a strict enquiry into the murders. It is must important to bear this fact in mind, and to notice that the Ambassadors' Confe- rence came upon the stage almost as soon as Italy. Moreover, there is little doubt that this body, through its commissioners, had a better chance of discovering the truth, if it was minded, to do so. The commissioners were on the spot, they knew the country and the inhabitants, and an enqniry could Be instituted without delay. Revengeful Italy. But now Mussolini began the methods of frightfulness. Greece had assented to all his demands except those which en- tailed insult to her own flag. Thereupon the Italian ships, on August 31, wantonly bombarded Corfu. The news of the bom- bardment reached the Greek Government
at the same time as the despatch announc- ing that its request for a modification of terms , had been rejected. Italy, landed 8,000 troops on a defenceless island whose neutrality was guaranteed by the treaty of 1864. Greece, at once and very pro- perly appeared to the League of Nations. Fortunately for the world, the Council of the League was in session, and the As- sembly was also about to meet. On Sep- tember 1 Signor Salandra informed the Council that he had no permission to dis- cuss the crisis. On Sunday (September 2) it was stated that Italy would refuse to accept the League's intervention, and would withdraw from the League, Greece, on the other hand, announced that she was prepared to pay any reparations considered necessary by the ambassadors. Plain Speaking to Mussolini. On Monday (September 3) Signor Salan- dra asked for a postponement of the Coun- cil meeting until instructions arrived from his Government. In spite of Mussolini's threats that he would withdraw from the League if it interfered in any way, the matter was discussed by the Council at a meeting open to the public on the Wednes- day (September 5). There Signor Salan- dra stated the case for Italy, and M. Politis replied on behalf of Greece. Two facts are to be emphasized — the meeting of the Council was not held in camera, and the parties had to present their point of view to the world, and not to a coterie
ot diplomatists. Meanwhile the Confer- ence of Ambassadors had drawn up a num- ber of suggestions which were discussed by the Council on September 6. The minutes of this meeting were sent to the Confer- ence of Ambassadors, who on September 8 announced to both Greece and Italy, as well as to the League of Nations, the terms upon which the Conference thought that the dispute should be settled. They were as follows:— The Greek military authorities must apologize to the British, French, and Italian representatives a Athens; the enquiry into the murders must be finished by September 27; and the acceptance of the terms by Greece must be communicated to the British, French, and Italian representatives separately, and simultaneously. The Conference con- cluded by paying a tribute to the Coun- cil's, high spirit of justice and its anxiety to maintain international harmony. It also emphasized the value of the minutes of the Council in enabling it to come to a decision. On September 8 Greece ac- cepted these terms,and, on the next day, Mussolini did the same, with the proviso, however, that Corfu was not to be evacu- ated until Greece had given full satisfac- tion. On September 11 M. Politis in formed the Council that Greece had de- position in a Swiss bank 50,000,000 lire as security for an indemnity which a com mission at Janina might assess. Four days later the Ambassadors' Conference in- formed Mussoolini that he must evacuate Corfu on September 27. This date was accepted by Mussolini within 48 hours — a result, it is said, due to pressure by France and England, who threatened that otherwise the whole question would be discussed in the Assembly on Monday, September 17. On that day. therefore, the settlement was announced in the Council, and Lord Robert Cecil, not without justification, attributed this happy conclusion of a most menacing crisis to the action of the League. Invaluable Work by the League. At this point it is well to observe that had the League of Nations not existed, Italy would have over-run Greece at the outset, and no one can say where the con- flagration would have ended. Instead of this, Italy had to share the apology with England and France, and also to justify herself in public at Geneva. Moreover, the decision about Grecian reparations, though not taken altogether out of Italy's hands, was made in conjunction with other interested parties. Lastly, not a word was said by the conference about Italy's demand from Greece of 1,000,000 lire per day for the cost of the occupation of Corfu. Mussolini still denied the competence of the League to discuss the Corfu inci- dent. On September 19 the Council de- bated, again in public, this question of competence. Signor Salandra urged that the League Covenant, did not prohibit "pacific reprisals" (for so be described the bombardment of Corfu); he stated, how- ever, that Italy was willing to have the matter interpreted by "authorized judi cial authorities." Next morning the de bate was continued, and it was finally de- cided to refer the- question of competence to a body of jurists. On September 26 the Conference of Ambassadors awarded Italy an indemnity of 50,000,000 lire, on
the alleged ground that "the Greek au- thorities had been guilty of a certain negli- gence before and after the crime." This decision may or may not be a just one. Obviously it would be accepted with much more confidence, if the evidence on Which it was founded could be made pub- lic. That certain members of the As- sembly were far from satisfied was shown on Friday, September 28, when in a pub- lic meeting of that body the representa- tives of Sweden Norway, South Africa, Finland, Ireland, Colombia, Denmark, Persia, and the Netherlands mounted the rostra, and, amid loud applause, denounced the conduct of Mussolini. It would be interesting to learn what instructions, if any. were given to the Australian delega tion, and why we and Canada took no part in this protest.