CHAPTER VII
THE LOCARNO PACTS

During the spring and summer of 1925, the French, German, and British diplomats were looking for some substitute for the Geneva Protocol. Stresemann was ready to guarantee the French-Belgian frontier on condition that France and Britain gave a similar guarantee for the German frontier. This was the gist of the so-called Locarno Pacts of September 1925.

In the course of the negotiations, Mussolini endeavoured to obtain a similar guarantee for the Italian frontier at the Brenner. His attempt failed.1

As a consequence, Mussolini took no interest in the Locarno negotiations during October 1925, and the Fascist Press in Italy displayed mocking scepticism. The weekly Critica Fascista, published by Bottai, an important personage in the régime, used the following terms to describe the "Byzantine" discussions at Locarno:

"Nobody has the courage to put his finger on the wound: an inter- European understanding is a chimera and as good as impossible. The best thing is for each country to look to its own interests, forming friendships and possibly alliances with the neighbouring peoples with whom it will some day have to march. We are sure that our Government is of this opinion. The indifference with which it follows the proceedings at Locarno proves it. Mussolini has preferred to spend several days in Piedmont, where our soldiers are training, rather than in Switzerland, where diplomats are wasting their time."

____________________
1
In a speech of May 20, 1925, Mussolini said: "Not only must the Rhine frontiers be guaranteed, but those of the Brenner must also be guaranteed". In a speech to the Reichstag of February 9, 1926, Stresemann stated that the Italian Government had asked for a pact guaranteeing also the Brenner frontier. Mussolini, in a speech to the Senate on the following day, denied it: "I must deny this statement in the most formal manner. The Italian Government not only did not ask for, but scrupulously rejected, any positive suggestion of this nature, both before and after Locarno. The strongest guarantee of the Brenner is the moral and material force of the treaties and of the Italian people." In saying these words, Mussolini forgot what he had said to the same Senate in his speech of May 20, 1925. On May 28, 1926, three months after the denial of February 10, he made the following statement before the Senate: "The fact that the Brenner frontier is not guaranteed is very easily explained: the Government did not insist, because the Locarno pacts were already too complex." Would anyone who had made no request have been able not to insist? A Fascist publicist, Latinus ( L'Italia e i problemi internazionali, p. 206), states that it was the French negotiator who wished to guarantee the Brenner frontier, but Mussolini refused the offer. There is no evidence that this version has the slightest foundation. Quite the contrary, Briand, in March 1930, in discussing Franco-Italian relations with MacDonald, said: "When the arrangement had been drawn up between. Britain, Germany, Belgium and France, Italy had begged to be allowed to come in, and France had reluctantly agreed" ( Documents on British Foreign Policy:1919-39, p. 254).

-66-

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