Il Corriere di Trieste

Trieste, October the 26th and the USA

Trieste, October the 26th and the USA

Trieste, 26 October 1954

by Paolo G. Parovel

On the 26th of October 1954 the first provisional Government of State of the present-day Free Territory of Trieste, entrusted to the Governments of the United States and of the United Kingdom, the Allied Military Government Free Territory of Trieste – AMG FTT, was substituted in the exercise of temporary civil administration by the Italian Government, under a Memorandum of Understanding signed in London on the 5th of October.

The direct British-US administration, efficient and honest, had revived the economy of Trieste establishing a fair taxation and promoting its economic development with funds like the counterpart fund, which the United States granted to the Free Territory of Trieste as to all other European States involved in the E.R.P. – European Recovery Program, also famous as “Marshall Plan”.

The results were good, because the 27 years of Italian occupation and then annexation after World War I had not yet destroyed the economic culture and entrepreneurial mindsets of the Habsbourg’s Trieste in industry, trade, and around the seas of the world.

Instead, during the British-US administration, Italy had provided with money and weapons Italian nationalists and Neofascists in Trieste, and it did it with great sums that they ultimately made them a powerful group more and more wealthy, arrogant, corrupted, and violent.

26 October 1954

On 26 October 1954, nationalistic propaganda was selling the change of provisional administration as “return of Trieste to Italy” promising a bright future for all, and photographers as well as cameramen immortalised a huge crowd of enthusiasts and curious who greeted Italian Troops in Piazza Grande and along the seashores.

But the paradox is, about two thirds of that crowd consisted in Italians that had come to Trieste to see Triestines greeting Italians. The majority of Triestines were sceptical or against that, so they remained far from the celebrations, while poet Biagio Marin, despite siding with the Italians, wrote prophetically:

«Trieste rejoices this evening. It celebrates with drive its incoming misfortune. Because all the times that our city, with the greatest enthusiasm, offered itself, to beloved Italy, immediately went down the way of decadence. We were the jewel of Maria Theresia’s empire, and Austria’s port, we were the Habsbourg’s scented rose. With Italy we’ll be a small boatyard managed in a great rush by bureaucrats, and we’ll become a suffocated and resigned society made of easy profits and of unbreakable nostalgias. Today it the day our sunset begins.» 

And so it has been, because the new administering Government did immediately seize control of local economy bleeding it illegally with the enormous taxes of the Italian State, and making it dependant of Italian public money, which however Rome continued to provide using American funds destined to the Free Territory of Trieste.

The means of fiscal aggression

I am one of the witnesses of the beginning, on that very day, of the Italian fiscal aggression to the economy of the Free Territory of Trieste, as well as of its systematic continuation.

In 1954 I was 10 years old, and my parents, Eugenio Parovel and Nerina Widmar, conduced with success our agency for the distribution of international press established in 1882, with a bookstore and head office behind the Piazza Grande, in Via del Teatro, a branch in Istanbul, Istiklal Caddesi 495, and another branch in Ljubljana during the war.

Two things I remember well about that 26th of October: the excited crowd in the square and on the seashores, under the rain, and the immediate, brutal irruption of the Italian Guardia di Finanza (fiscal police) in our agency. My father, born in Trieste as an Austrian citizen in 1900, had also worked in France, in Belgium, in Alexandria (Egypt), in New York, at the Brennerpass and in Istanbul, but he had never received such a treatment.

He was a honest entrepreneur and the Italian fiscal police found no irregularities, however, the Intendenza di Finanza (Italian Superintendence to Finance, now Revenue Office) burdened him with taxes so unfair and excessive that his activity was paralyzed.

He became ill because of it, but did not give up, in 1957 he was able to support the re-opening of the Galleria del Tergesteo, which belonged to company Tripcovich of Baron Gottfried von Banfield, moved the bookstore inside it with new furnitures designed by Alessandro Psacaropulo, and an art gallery that faced Piazza della Borsa, which he managed together with Piero Florit, and hosted works by Lucio Fontana and other famous authors.

My father died the following year, at only 58 years of age, and the Italian Intendenza di Finanza did immediately assault us with inheritance taxes that were five times higher than the amounts due. We appealed to the first instance of the Tax Commission, which confirmed our instances, but, despite being aware that its requests were illegitimate, the  Intendenza di Finanza appealed against this decision; in second instance we won again. So the Intendenza di Finanza impugned the decision before a central Commission in Rome, which rejected our reasons without allowing us to defend ourselves.

This illegal violence perpetrated by Italian tax authorities made things so difficult that we would have had to close our activities if it weren’t for the help of our employees and of two gentlemen educated in Austrian Trieste: baron Banfield and Ugo Hirn-Irneri, founder of the Lloyd Adriatico, who did not forget the help he had received by my parents when he was still poor.

A few years later we had to give up on the distribution agency anyways, and in the 1980s, when I had to give up on the bookstore as well, Italian tax authorities did once again burden me with taxes trice as great as those due, and I could have this tax request ruled null and void only after 15 years of legal actions, with all consequent economic damages.

Six decades of economic ransack

Since 1954, the Italian administration has applied this treatment to thousand of business of all kinds and sizes, adding to it the sabotage of the international Free Port, the theft of the shipyards, the closure of the stock exchange, and the slow annihilation of nearly all historical, great enterprises of Trieste that worked by land or by sea. Even the Lloyd Adriatico has been sold, and the Tripcovich has been annihilated with scandalous procedures.

This is how Trieste, the Philadelphia of Europe, created by Austria around the Free Port with two centuries of immigrating entrepreneurs and workers with different languages, cultures, and faiths, turned into a Country of emigration to other European States and to the Americas.

The result is the dramatic reality of our days, when half of the population is either in serious economic difficulties or already poor, youth is forced to emigrate to have a chance to build its own future, while Trieste’s streets are turning into burials of former stores, and its historic core becomes more and more downgraded.

Now in Via del Teatro there is a sandwich bar instead of our agency, while the Galleria del Tergesteo, after a soulless redesign, was downgraded from the salon of the city to a huge, crumbling and out of place pizzeria caprese, while the surviving bank is to be substituted with a poultry restaurant.

The effects of this continuing ransack were covered for some years thank to the booming border-area trade with Yugoslavia and to Eastern Europe, but when even this external resource vanished, Trieste fell once again in the middle of the economic crisis, worsened by a local Italian political establishment more and more inept, greedy, and corrupt.

It is absurd that all of this happens in the only city in Europe that has the rights of a sovereign State, international Free Port, and independent financial center granted by the United Nations Security Council and were established in order to make it an extraordinary source of wealth, for itself as for all other States.

26 October 1994

In 1994, forty years after that 26 October of 1954, the Trieste ransacked by the Italian temporary civil administration was surviving on the brink of the Croatian-Serb war that dissolved Yugoslavia, and I was taking care of analyses to monitor a secret Italian operation that risked to internationalize the crisis of former Yugoslavia, destabilising a great part of Europe.

The problem, which was already under observation since some time, consisted in the fact that certain particular Italian circles deeply infiltrated in Italian institutions wanted to take advantage of the war between Croatia and Serbia to organize accidents in Istria and blame them on Croatian nationalists, in order to justify a military intervention “in defence of the Italian minority”.

Public opinion had been prepared for that by releasing as historical truths anti-partisan fascists and Nazi historical propagandas that date back to 1943-45, and rearranged by notorious circles of the Italian nationalist and Neofascist right wing. However, the greatest support to this operation came from Italian former Communists, while the international connections of the operation linked it to Germany and to Russia, the two Countries that, together with Italy, had favoured the violent dissolution of Yugoslavia, sabotaging the attempts of the US to prevent it.

In Italy, those secret political-military activities constituted a breach of the very Constitution of the Republic and of Law 17/1982, but they were so well-protected that even the Military Prosecution had to stop its investigations on the people responsible, and the publication of news about it on Italian media was systematically prevented. Newspaper Liberazione and Paolo Ruimiz, on Il Piccolo, tried to write about it, but both were stopped after the first article.

Instead, in Slovenia and Croatia it was possible publishing such news, but none of the to Governments reacted, beccasse while that of Slovenia was subject to powerful Italian influences, that of Croatia was still fighting the war. The burden to stop this destabilising operation as well did therefore fall on the United States, but in 1994 Rome was still trying to ignore their confidential warnings.

Italian revanchist propagandas were mainly based on the false thesis that the Free Territory of Trieste had never been established, that therefore Italy had maintained its sovereignty over it, and therefore could exercise that over both Trieste and accessory “Zone B” which, instead, from 1954 had been entrusted to the administration of the Federal Yugoslav Government, which did no longer exist at that time and had sub-entrusted it to Slovenia and to Croatia.

The question of former “Zone B” had been ultimately settled by the United Nations with the 1992 Resolutions that recognise the new independent Republics of Slovenia and of Croazia within their existing borders, after plebiscites.

By doing so, the rights of State of the present-day Free Territory, consisting in its main, former “Zone A” with the capital city, the international Free Port, and five smaller Municipalities remained intact.

In order to ultimately discourage the Italian revanchist operation, it was therefore necessary reminding the Italian Government, with diplomacy but firmly, that it was not exercising sovereignty rights over Trieste, instead, it was exercising a provisional administration under a British-US mandate.

So on 26 October 1994 the U.S. Ambassador in Italy, Reginald Bartholomew, career diplomat, addressed an official letter to the people of Trieste, opening it with the greeting  «on the 40th anniversary of the transition of the city to the Italian civil administration», recalling the historical and friendly ties between the people of Trieste and the United States of America, and concluding with «wishes of peace and prosperity for the path to 2000» LINK.

The message, with its elegant form, was not clear to ordinary people, but fully intellegibile to the Italian diplomats. And they did know well that during the Cold War the United States avoided to take action in the conduction of the Italian and of the Yugoslav administrations in the two zones of the Free Territory of Trieste, however, they had always taken care also to preserve the legal status of the independent Trieste and of its Free Port, until the favourable strategic time to activate their international economic functions.

26 October 2017

It took 23 more years, but today, 26 October 2017, those conditions are finally real, with the deep change in Central-Eastern Europe’s political-strategic situation and with the doubling of the Suez Canal, both of which allow to increase international traffics on the railroad Baltic-Adriatic and Transsiberian routes through Vienna-Bratislava and through the North-Eastern Adriatic ports of Trieste (Free Territory), Koper (Slovenia) and Rijeka (Croatia).

Also, there are legal instruments that make it possible extending, with proper agreements between the present-day Free Territory, Slovenia, and Croatia, special free zones of the international Free Port of Trieste also to the nearby Slovenian port of Koper and to the Croatian ports of Rijeka and of Ploče to develop trades with Hungary, with Bosnia and Herzegovina, and with Serbia.

We can therefore finally reciprocate today the 1994 wishes and greetings to the new Ambassador of the United States of America in Rome, Mr. Lewis M. Eisenberg, who has not only extraordinary personal competences in the world on international finance, but also the experience of a member and later President of the Chairman of the Board of Commissioners of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which has ties with the Free Port of Trieste since 1921.

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