World War I, Giolitti's Justification of Italian Neutrality

5 December, 1914
Giolitti's Justification of Italian Neutrality

Great Britain, Collected Diplomatic Correspondence, London, 1915, p. 401.
Ex-Premier of Italy, Giovanni Giolitti, gave the following speech before the Italian Parliament, meant to justify Italy's neutrality. Signor Giolitti became Italian Premier, for the fifth time, on June 15, 1920.

During the Balkan war, on the 9th of August, about a year before the present war broke out, during my absence from Rome, I received from my hon. colleague, Signor di San Giuliano, the following telegram:

Austria has communicated to us and to Germany her intention of taking action against Serbia, and defines such action as defensive, hoping to bring into operation the casus foederis of the Triple Alliance, which, on the contrary, I believe to be inapplicable. [Sensation.]

I am endeavoring to arrange for a combined effort with Germany to prevent such action on the part of Austria, but it may become necessary to state clearly that we do not consider such action, if it should be taken, as defensive, and that, therefore, we do not consider that the casus foederis arises. Please telegraph to me at Rome if you approve.

I replied:

If Austria intervenes against Serbia, it is clear that a casus foederis cannot be established. It is a step which she is taking on her own account, since there is no question of defence, inasmuch as no one is thinking of attacking her. It is necessary that a declaration to this effect should be made to Austria in the most formal manner, and we must hope for action on the part of Germany to dissuade Austria from this most perilous adventure. [Hear, hear!]

This course was taken, and our interpretation was upheld and recognised as proper, since our action in no way disturbed our relations with the two Allied Powers. The declaration of neutrality made by the present Government conforms therefore in all respects to the procedures of Italian policy, and conforms also to an interpretation of the Treaty of Alliance which has been already accepted by the Allies.

I wish to recall this, because I think it is right that in the eyes of all Europe it should appear that Italy has remained completely loyal to the observances of her pledges. [Loud applause.]

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