Prof. Dr. Melanie Sully

"Will South Tyrol Survive?"

The governor of South Tyrol, Dr Luis Durnwalder, addressed this thoughtful question to a full house in the offices of Attorneys at Law, Eustacchio & Schaar in Vienna co-partner in the event was Go-Governance. Dr Durnwalder has been governor of South Tyrol since 1989 and has been a central figure in contemporary political events as well as a stable element of continuity throughout a major period of change. The autonomy practised in South Tyrol is often cited as a model but can it survive? This and other tough questions were put to the governor by Andreas Pfeifer, head of the foreign policy division at the Austrian Broadcasting Association, ORF.

At the beginning of his talk Luis Durnwalder stressed the importance of the European peace project despite difficulties with the Euro. Different regions with varied cultures and languages must be taken seriously he argued within this Europe.

South Tyrol enjoys an autonomous status which some say can serve as a model elsewhere. Dr Durnwalder outlined the ideas of various groups who argued for and against an extension of the present model. He described himself as a realist and a pragmatist saying there are historical differences between South Tyrol and, for example, Scotland. The governor mentioned five major areas which in his opinion were important:

A clear demarcation of competencies within this autonomy plus a new layer from the European Union. The importance of money – South Tyrol had not followed a deficit spending spree but knew what you spend you must earn. Demands from Rome for a solidarity contribution in the present economic crisis, he understood said the Governor but noone could decide where cuts could be made; that was a decision which should be taken in South Tyrol itself. For any minority to survive the Governor stressed it was important to possess and preserve its own language. The right to speak in one’s mother tongue for example in the courts is important. Connected with this is the field of education and in South Tyrol parents can decide on languages of instruction and this can be in the mother tongue. In effect three languages have become important: German, Italian and English. Dr Durnwalder stressed the importance of cross-border cooperation for survival.

His lively and witty discourse prompted many questions from Andreas Pfeifer, an expert on the topic, and head of the foreign policy division at the Austrian Broadcasting Association ORF. Pfeifer remarked that the power structure in South Tyrol resembled more a pyramid and this could be a potential problem in the post-Durnwalder era. He inquired whether the autonomy could come under pressure and maybe some would look on Rome as a kind of “enemy”. Durnwalder remained optimistic saying a minority has to be aware all the time and keep active. If a minority is passive and disinterested then noone will come to its rescue or take it seriously not even “Mama Austria”. He thought that despite economic problems Italy as a founder member of the EC would not go bankrupt.

Eustacchio & Schaar was founded in 2000 by Dr Thomas G. Eustacchio and Gernot Schaar with Dr Andreas Eustacchio (LSE).

Dr Melanie Sully, Spokesperson Go-Governance, September 2012