Italian Colonies

September 16, 1949

Report Outline
Unsolved Problem of Italian Colonies
Libya, Eritrea, and Italian Somaliland
Proposals for Disposition of Colonies

Unsolved Problem of Italian Colonies

Colonies Question in Coming U. N. General Assembly

When the United Nations General Assembly meets in New York for its regular fall session, Sept. 20, it will make another attempt to reach agreement on disposal of Italy's former African colonies. The General Assembly inherited this vexing problem from the Council of Foreign Ministers a year ago. Its initial effort to solve it came to naught last May when the delegates in plenary session rejected a plan of settlement worked out by the Assembly's Political and Security Committee. Revision of the plan probably will be that committee's first order of business in the new session.

The problem of the Italian colonies has defied solution for four years. The Council of Foreign Ministers, charged with drafting peace terms for Italy, took up the colonial question at its first meeting in London in September 1945. But neither there nor during its sessions in Paris in 1946 was it found possible to harmonize the views of the four great powers represented on the Council. The peace treaty as finally drafted merely alienated the colonies from Italy and provided that the United States, Great Britain, the Soviet Union, and France should jointly determine what was to be done with them. And those powers agreed to hand the problem over to the U. N. General Assembly, and to accept its recommendations, if they were unable to reach a settlement within a period of one year from the coming into force of the treaty. Further efforts at four-power agreement prior to the deadline date of Sept. 15, 1948, having proved fruitless, the General Assembly was thereupon saddled with responsibility for deciding the matter. The colonies all this time have remained under the administration of Great Britain, whose forces captured them during the war.

The former Italian colonies now in dispute are Libya in North Africa, Eritrea on the Red Sea, and Italian Somali-land on the Indian Ocean. Mussolini's conquest of Ethiopia was cancelled out early in World War II, when British forces drove the Italians from the country and restored Emperor Haile Selassie to his throne at Addis Ababa. Disposition of another and much earlier Italian conquest the Dodecanese Islands, captured from Turkey in 1912 created no controversy. It was agreed on all sides that those islands in the Aegean Sea, Greek in population and culture, should be demilitarized and ceded to Greece, and the peace treaty with Italy so provided.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
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May 08, 1968  Italian Election, 1968
Mar. 06, 1963  Italian Politics and Elections
Sep. 16, 1949  Italian Colonies
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