Italy, Relations with

   As Holy Roman emperors until Napoleon put an end to the office in 1806, Habsburgs were titular sovereigns in several principalities throughout the Italian peninsula. In the 16th century, the Spanish branch of the house of Austria occupied and administered Milan, Naples, and Sardinia. This arrangement came to an end with the extinction of the Habsburg line that ruled from Madrid; throughout the 18th century these regions and several others in Italy were passed back and forth among France, the Austrian Habsburgs, and Spain, ruled by a line of the French Bourbons following the War of the Spanish Succession (1701–1714). Tuscany came under Habsburg control in 1737; Habsburg cadet lines ruled Parma and Modena as well.
   The Congress of Vienna restored these areas, along with Lombardy, to the Habsburg Empire at the end of the Napoleonic Wars and added Venetia to Emperor Francis I’s lands for good measure. Having such a major territorial position on the Italian peninsula, governments in Vienna put a great deal of military and diplomatic energy into defending it. The architect of the post-Napoleonic settlement, Klemens von Metternich, worked at the Congresses of Troppau and Laibach (Ljubljana) in 1821 and 1822 to reinforce alliances with Prussia, Russia and, unsuccessfully, Great Britain, to suppress antimonarchical and nationalist sedition in Italy.
   The unification of Italy, largely completed in 1870, did not really change thinking about Italy in Habsburg governments. The new kingdom of Italy, ruled by the house of Sardinia–Piedmont, was the first national polity to fall away from the Habsburg Empire in the 19th century. Nationalism had led to a national state, the emblematic worst-case scenario for many of Emperor Franz Joseph’s advisors. Having once targeted individuals, movements, and individual principalities, such as the kingdom of Sardinia–Piedmont, as its enemies in Italy, Habsburg ministers now had a whole Italian state to mistrust and dislike. Only a few Italian lands still remained with Austria, but they had to be defended: Venetia, at the head of the Adriatic just north of Trieste and Fiume (Rjeka); Austrian and Hungarian commercial ports; and an increasingly important imperial naval base at Pola. There was also the South Tyrol, a region that gave the Habsburgs a strategic foothold in the Italian peninsula itself. Regardless of the Kingdom of Italy’s entrance into the Triple Alliance with Austria–Hungary and Germany (1882), Italy was enemy number one in the eyes of Austrian military and diplomatic planning even after the turn of the 20th century; Serbia assumed that role only shortly before World War I. Italy’s declaration of war on Austria–Hungary in 1915 only confirmed long-held expectations in Vienna. The loss of the largely German-speaking South Tyrol to Italy after World War I infuriated may Austrians, particularly in the northern part of the province still left to the new Austrian republic. The government in Vienna, however, put territorial pretensions aside to cultivate trade and military relations with the Italian dictator, Benito Mussolini (1883–1945). These contacts became especially crucial for Austria after Adolf Hitler became the German chancellor in 1933, and Austrian independence seemed even more precarious. The Rome Protocols, signed in 1934 by Italy, Hungary, and Austria, gave the latter two economic preference in the Italian market. Austrians also hoped to get weapons from Italy to compensate for limitations the country had accepted in the Treaty of St. Germain. The Franco–Italian Military Accords of 1935, though never formally adopted in either country, promised Austria military assistance in case of German attack.
   Mussolini’s invasion of Ethiopia in 1936 and his African adventures generally earned him the enmity of the entire League of Nations and made an Austrian alliance with him altogether counterproductive. Neither France nor Great Britain, who had the most to lose from Italian expansion in Africa and the Middle East, were willing to do anything for Austria. Mussolini turned to Hitler for support, thus removing any possibility that Italy would oppose the Anschluss, which did go forward in 1938.
   Relations between republican Italy and the Second Austrian Republic after 1945 were also contentious, and not only between Vienna and Rome. The problem of the large German-speaking minority in the South Tyrol also stirred up passions in the Austrian Tyrol, which, like all Austrian provinces, was constitutionally entitled to conduct foreign relations up to a certain level with states that impinge on its borders. The Austrian Tyrol, particularly its governors, who were all from the Austrian People’s Party, devoted much effort to bringing the two lands together again. When the issue of German minority rights came before the United Nations in 1960, Austrian Tyroleans were among the negotiators. An agreement signed between Austria and Italy in 1969 called for a number of cross-border initiatives, including joint meetings of the two regional parliaments.
   Though the Italian and Austrian constitutions treat the question of provincial participation in foreign affairs very differently, efforts to promote cooperative relationships between both Tyrols continued after 1992, when Rome and Vienna brought their larger quarrels to an end. Both sides have willingly fostered a nonpolitical identification of a common Tyrolean “region” since 1998. Such an arrangement— Salzburg also has one with Berchtesgaden and Trauenstein on the boundary with Bavaria—enables localities to address practical cross-border problems quickly and efficiently, though the larger issues of the volume of transit traffic and the noise and pollution that accompany it are still under discussion.
   For all the contentiousness and occasional serious violence that the South Tyrol question raised in postwar Italy and Austria, the period since 1945 has been marked by considerable efforts by both countries to overcome nationalist resentment on both sides dating back to World War I and before. The Austrian Alpbach Forum opened useful discussions among scholars, students, intellectuals, and politicians on national differences and similarities. Italian and Austrian historians were quick to reestablish cooperative research arrangements that had existed between the two states even before 1914. Both countries have sponsored many serious conferences and publications on relations between them. Austria and Italy have worked together in international organizations, beginning in 1948 in the Organization for Cooperation and Economic Development (OCSE) and, by 1995, in the European Union (EU) itself. In 2001, the Italian parliament made it possible for Austrian citizens who were in lands annexed to Italy after World War I to hold Italian citizenship as well. Italy remains a very important trading partner of Austria; occupying second place in Austrian commerce with EU states after Germany. In 1998, all three states formally opened their borders for free trade among themselves, as required of EU member states.
   Possible points of trouble still remain. Some Austrians grumbled publicly about the sanctions imposed by the EU in 2000 on the participation of Jörg Haider’s right-wing Freedom Party of Austria in a coalition with the Austrian People’s Party, but failing to do the same in 2001 when Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi included neo-fascists in his government. In negotiating a more comprehensive constitution for the EU in 2003, Austria has frequently sided with the newer and smaller members of the EU. Italy, on the other hand, with Berlusconi as its spokesman, stood with the larger and initial member states of the EU, particularly Germany and France. By 2004, 10 percent of the student body at the University of Innsbruck came from Italy, most German speakers from the South Tyrol or the Upper Adige, whose fraternities still foster the politics of resentment. But with foreign relations between Austria and Italy now often mediated by the EU, serious friction has been avoided.
   See also Foreign Policy.

Historical dictionary of Austria. . 2014.

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