« EelmineJätka »
I do not wish to speak in the name of the Delegates of other countries, but I will speak only in that of my own and in that of the Belgian Delegation.
As an exceptional measure we, like Serbia, Greece, Poland and Roumania, have been given 2 delegates—2 to each of these Powers that on the Commission appointed to examine the question of reparation for the damage of the war. Apart from this Commission, the 19 Powers “With special interests” have to appoint in common by a system hitherto unexplained, which they will have to discover, 5 delegates. It is not stated whether this will be done by proportional representation or otherwise.
We Belgians will beg leave to present to the Conference the following request:
First, as regards the Commission to examine the constitution of the League of Nations and next, the Commission appointed to examine international legislation on labor. We should wish the Conference to be so good as to grant to Belgium 2 delegates on each of these 2 Commissions.
As regards the Commission for the establishment of the League of Nations, we think that we have a right to this on account of our international, political and even geographic position, which has exposed us, and may again expose us in the future to serious danger.
As regards the question of international labor legislation there is nothing that could interest us more. Belgium, small in extent, counts among the great commercial producing and industrial powers of the world—she counted among them and I hope she will again count among them in a short time, after her reconstruction.
I will not tire the Conference by quoting figures, but we are in that respect among the 5 or 6 foremost Powers; we have a large industrial population. In certain departments we are among the very first. I will mention only the coal and zinc industries and the production and casting of iron. I will not labor the points.
I think it would be just to give to Belgium a double representation on the 2 Commissions I have mentioned, that is, two delegates.
There remain 3 Commissions: One dealing with the control of ports and ways of communication, another which will deal with crimes committed during the war and with the penalty to be inflicted for those crimes and the third dealing with reparation. But in this last named Commission we think we are fairly well represented. There remain therefore only two: that on ports waterways and railways and that on crimes committed during the war and the penalties which those crimes deserve.
I ask that it should at once be recognized that Belgium shall have a delegate on each of these two Commissions and in doing so I do not think that I am asking more than is reasonable. Belgium possesses one of the three most important ports on the European Continent. She has a network of railways which is the densest in Europe. Owing to the needs of her production and trades she is directly interested in the whole system of international communications. It is certainly not exaggerated to ask that for the examination of so grave a problem Belgium should have a Delegate, and I ask the Conference to decide in this sense.
As regards the question of crimes committed during the war and the penalties to be exacted for them, who could deny that we
have an absolute right to be represented on the Commission, when our country was the first to be invaded, the first to be submerged by invasion, when her neutrality was violated in spite of the treaty signed by the enemy, and when some of the most abominable crimes with which the enemy can be reproached were committed on our soil as also on Serbian soil ? I think then there is nothing excessive in our demand.
I speak only for ourselves. I do not wish to prejudice the rights and interests of any other country. I do not think I shall arouse their susceptibilities when I state this claim in the name of the Belgian Delegation alone.
To sum up, I ask that, as in the case of the Commission on damage caused during the war, Belgium, should have two delegates on the Commission for the establishment of the League of Nations, two delegates on the Commission on international labor legislation, one delegate on the Commission relative to the control of ports, and one delegate on the Commission for the examination of crimes committed by the enemy and of the penalties to be exacted for them.
I appeal to the sense of justice of the Great Powers and to that of the President of the Conference.
Mr. Calogeras (Brazil): It is with some surprise that I constantly hear it said: “This has been decided, that has been decided.” Who has taken a decision? We are a sovereign assembly, a sovereign court. It seems to me that the proper body to take a decision is the Conference itself.
Now, it appears from what has been said that functions have been allotted and that representation on the Commissions is contemplated without certain very important interests having been able to obtain a hearing. It is unnecessary to say that I cordially adhere to the principle of a League of Nations. I have the honor to represent a country which in its constitution absolutely forbids, in express terms, the waging of a war of conquest. This is an idea of long standing with us, firmly rooted in our traditions. I am therefore heartily in favor of the idea of a League of Nations.
But if, on the other hand, I consider the proposed organization of the conditions and the manner in which the interests of my country may be represented thereon, I must point out that we have laws, I may even say texts, of a constitutional character, which do not permit us to give to anybody powers to represent us.
I therefore appeal to the sense of justice of the President and of the members of the Bureau of this Conference. I ask them that, at least on the Commission which will deal with the League of Nations as well as those on which are to examine international control of railways and ports and reparation for damage, Brazil should enjoy the representation to which she considers herself entitled.
Sir Robert Borden (Canada): I have a great deal of sympathy with the point of view of the smaller nations, because possibly the constitution of the League affects them even more closely that it affects the status of the Great Powers of the world. On the other hand, I realize that there must be a reasonable limitation of the membership of the committee; otherwise, it would be very difficult to carry on the work in an effective way. And I remember, also, that
after this Committee has made its report, its conclusions must be submitted to this Conference, and must be approved by it before they can go into effect, but I do feel that the matter has been placed before this Conference in perhaps not the most appropriate way. We are told that certain decisions have been reached. The result of that is that everyone of us asks: “By whom have those decisions been reached, and by what authority ?"
I should have thought it more appropriate to submit a recommendation to this Conference, and to have the Conference itself settle the number to be appointed and who they are to be. If that course had been taken, it seems probable that most of the difficulty which had arisen would not have presented itself. And I should like to suggest, with all due respect, that perhaps that would be a more appropriate method of dealing with such matters in the future. Certain regulations have been formulated and passed by which, as I understand, two Conferences were established-one a Conference of the 5 Great Powers, and another which may be called the full or plenary Conference. I do not understand that, up to the present time, there has been any Conference of the five great Powers in accordance with the regulations thus adopted. It may be that there has and I have no doubt that there is, and with the best intention; but nevertheless, as we are acting under regulations adopted by the representatives of the 5 Great Powers, it seems highly desirable that we should abide by them. Therefore, I again suggest, with all respect, that the proceedings in the future should be guided by those regulations.
M. Trumbitch (Serbia): I have the honor to declare, in the name of the Delegation of the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, that we support the entirely just proposal of my honorable friend Mr. Hymans. At the same time, I have the honor to ask that the same representation may be given to the delegation to which I belong as to the Belgian delegation.
It is not necessary for me long to retain the attention of thit high assembly to justify the desire which I have expressed, for the reasons just now put forward by M. Hymans are almost the same as those which justify our proposal.
M. Veniselos (Greece): As regards the League of Nations. I associate myself with the request put forward by the Belgian Delegation, without, however, asking that Greece should receive the same treatment. I recognize that all small countries are deeply interested in the study of this question, but I must admit also that the situation of Belgium is entirely a special one by reason of her proximity to the German Empire, which started this War, and for the other reasons given by Mr. Hymans.
I therefore do not ask that my country should be specially represented on this Commission, and confine myself to declaring that I hold myself at the disposal of the Commission when it is appointed in order to make known my ideas on the subject.
As regards reparation for damage, I must thank the representatives of the Great Powers for the representation which they have granted to my country.
As regards the responsibility of the authors of the war, I ask that Greece may also be given a representative, in view of the fact
that we have to deplore the loss of between three and four hundred thousand people of Greek race in the Ottoman Empire. It would, therefore, appear to be just that we should be represented in order that we may be able to submit to the Commission and then to the Conference our special point of view on this question.
I do not ask that my country should be specially represented on the Commission relating to international legislation on labor, for other nations are perhaps more interested than ourselves in this question.
It would be well, finally, that we should be granted a representative on the Commission for the international control of ports, not only on account of the maritime importance of my country, and of the special interest which it has in this question, but also because of the fact that even in the present territory of Greece there are certain places which might come within the purview of this part of the program of the Conference. It would, therefore, be just that Greece should in this respect be authorized to make known her wishes.
I think it right to remind the assembly in conclusion that in the report that I have the honor to submit to the Conference concerning the territorial claims of my country, I declared myself ready to agree that countries bordering on the sea should give all possible facilities to countries placed behind them which have not such easy access to the sea.
Count Penha Garcia (Portugal): You will allow me to make some observations on a question which interests small and great Powers alike. First, I draw your attention to an essential fact which is moreover the corollary of all the noble speeches which this assembly has just heard.
It is certain that the League of Nations, a question of such great importance raised by the Great Powers and interesting the weaker countries in so high a degree, must inspire confidence as regards the future, particularly among the latter. It is likewise certain that respects for our rights, the decisions which we shall be called upon to take and the cordiality of our relations within this Assembly will constitute a kind of foretaste of that League of Nations which we have just been invited to join. I feel certain that this consideration will guide the proposals of the Great Powers and that our decisions will be inspired by the lofty view and the spirit of high justice which should preside over the League of Nations.
We must not, however, exaggerate the importance of the question of representation on the Commissions, for that, after all, only concerns a method of work, and those who propose this method meant well in doing so, because it offers indisputable advantages.
It is true that large Commissions are more difficult to direct and that their work is sometimes rather slow, but we must not forget that the work of these Commissions must be of such importance to each of the countries interested that perhaps in reality it is worth running the risk which we are now seeking to avoid. Perhaps it would be better so to arrange that in each Commission all interests should be represented and made known so that we may attain, doubtless more slowly, a surer result, which will enable us to come with more precise ideas and less unprepared to the plenary sessions.
I will especially draw the attention of the President, whose qualities of heart and whose fairness constitute for us a two-fold guarantee, to this point, of the importance of which for my country he has certainly not lost sight.
As regards the Commission on Reparation, the non-representation of Portugal is certainly due to an oversight, since other countries having special interests in this respect are all represented thereon, a fact which, I may say, affords me great satisfaction. I pay homage to the sufferings and endurance of so many countries which have been the victims of an aggression, the brutality of which has excited universal indignation.
I beg leave, however, to point out that the position of Portugal is absolutely the same, that we have shed our blood in France for the cause of Right and Justice, that our territories in Africa have been invaded, that we are half, I might indeed say completely, ruined by our efforts in the war. We do not regret this. But why, then, should we not be heard, why should we not also be represented on the Commission appointed to consider the question of Reparation. Once again I must observe this seems to me to be an oversight.
As regards the other Commissions, those relating to the control of ports, to the League of Nations, to Labor questions and to penalties for responsibility for the war, are also of unquestionable interest to Portugal, but, generally speaking, I request the Bureau to be so good as to accede to the legitimate desire of all countries represented at the Conference to be able to make their voices heard whenever they have a special interest to defend, and to be represented on the Commissions. I ask that all these countries may be placed on the same footing as the others where their rights are affected.
Mr. Benes (Czecho-Slovak Republic): Without entering into detail in regard to the question of the nomination of representatives on the Commissions, I beg leave to submit the following considerations to the Conference:
The Czecho-Slovak delegation ask to be represented on the Commissions appointed to examine the questions of Reparation and of the Responsibility of the Central Empires. We base this proposal on the following grounds:
The Czecho-Slovak Republic is especially interested in all questions concerning the financial and economic liquidation of the former Austro-Hungarian Empire; for its territory formed the most industrial region of that monarchy. It would therefore be impossible to settle these questions without allowing us to bring forward such information on the subject as we possess.
Our delegation also has a special interest in the question of International railways and waterways. Our country has in fact no access to the sea, and it is extremely important for our future international position to know how these great channels of communication will be controlled, and especially to take part in the discussion relating to the control of international railways, waterways and ports. Therefore we ask to be represented on the Commission instructed to examine these questions.
The questions of the League of Nations being also of the highest interest to countries surrounded, like ours, by Powers who have