The Fiume and the Corfu incidents

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J. S. Papafloratos


The European stability was threatened by the Fiume and Corfu incidents
in 1923. Mussolini (Premier and Foreign Minister of the Italian government)
followed a common policy towards the two Balkan states (Kingdom of Serbs,
Croats and Slovenes and Greece). The “Fiume affair” firstly appeared at the
Paris Peace Conference, in which the Italian representatives claimed the
annexation of this city to their country. This claim was rejected by the Allied
powers. The Italian government did not give up and it tried to achieve its goal
in the following years. On August 27th, 1923, the Italian members of the
International Commission for the Delineation of the Greek-Albanian borders
were murdered. Mussolini took advantage of this murder and he sent a severe
ultimatum to Athens. The Greek government partially accepted it. But, Mussolini did not wait for the official reply and he ordered the occupation of Corfu. Unfortunately for him, the Italian commander ordered the bombardment of the demilitarized island, killing more than fifteen women and children. Mussolini’s diplomatic position was very weak. So, he followed a conciliatory policy towards Belgrade upon Fiume in order to prevent the Serbian government from combining its efforts with the Greek one. At the same time, he asked for the French assistance. The Serbian diplomats tried to form an alliance with their Greek colleagues unsuccessfully. This was a serious mistake of the almost paralyzed Greek government. After a few days, the French government pressed the Serbs to follow a moderate policy towards Mussolini, who remained firm in his demands. Athens, having only the discrete British assistance in the international fora, could not prevail over Mussolini. The latter was demanding compensation in order to liberate Corfu. Finally, the two isolated Balkan governments were forced to retreat in front of Mussolini’s claims.

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