The Euroregion, a harmless weapon

The delay in final approval of the Euroregion Tyrol-South – Tyrol-Trentino by the Italian government has raised again the debate about the independence of South Tyrol. In Rome they are afraid of the creation of a political entity; while from Bolzano they assure that it is just about cooperation between regions with the same characteristics and problems.

By Beatriz Paúl Naya

Matthias Fink and Birgit Oberkofler, representatives of Tyrol and South Tyrol in the Euroregion. | By Beatriz Paúl Naya

The last step in the institutionalization of the Euroregion is in power of the Italian Council of Ministers. Since last October, when the managers of the Euroregion sent the documents to Rome, Berlusconi’s government has taken issue with some points, which has lengthened the process. Matthias Fink, on behalf of Tyrol in the new organism, says: “The problem is not in the content but conceptual with the term ‘Euroregion’”.

In Rome they agree with the existence of cooperation in transport, culture, environment… but the fear is “the creation of a political entity under the name of Euroregion” says Maurizio Vezzali, councillor of Popolo della Libertà (PDL) in Bolzano.

The case of South Tyrol is becoming more important given the characteristics of the region. With the Euroregion, the former region of Tyrol –now Tyrol (Austria) and South Tyrol (Italy) – will cooperate closely again. From the office of the Euroregion in Bolzano they hope that after the “reassuring call from Durnwalder -president of the region Trentino-South Tyrol- to Rome”, an affirmative answer will come soon.

South Tyrol: A historical overview

  • Until 1918: Part of the historical region of Tyrol, Austro-Hungarian empire
  • 1919: Treaty of Saint-Germain. South Tyrol becomes part of Italy
  • 1922-1939: Fascist era of Mussolini. Italianization of South Tyrol
  • 1939: South Tyrol Option Agreement. Possibility to emigrate to Germany or to stay in Italy
  • 1943: Mussolini is deposed and South Tyrol annexed to Greater Germany (IIWW)
  • 1946: First Austrian-Italian agreement, recognizing right for German minority
  • 1960s: Terrorism by South Tyrolean Liberation Committee
  • 1969: Second agreement. Autonomy Statute for South Tyrol

Towards greater cooperation

The European Academy of Bolzano, created in 1992, is an independent research center. | By Beatriz Paúl Naya

The Euroregion Tyrol-South Tyrol-Trentino was formed under the framework of the European Grouping of Territorial Cooperation (EGTC) of 2007, “a new European legal instrument designed to facilitate and promote cross-border, transnational and interregional cooperation with legal entity and as such, it enables regional and local authorities and other public bodies from different member states, to set up cooperation groupings with a legal personality”.

This is based at the same time on the 1980 Madrid Convention and Protocols 1 and 2, these last ones not ratified by Italy.

“The Italian government is always critical of the cooperation between regions and countries. It is not the first time, and there were problems when the Valle d’Aosta, Piemonte and Liguria want to cooperate with other French regions,” said Alice Engl, researcher in the European Academy of Bolzano. However, she admits that “this case will be more carefully observed by Rome when dealing with South Tyrol”.

Maurizio Vezzali is representative for Berlusconi's party in Bolzano. | By Beatriz Paúl Naya

Rome remains on guard

The PDL remains skeptical because “South Tyrol just look north, not east and west. They should consider the entire Alpine area for the Euroregion”, Vezzali affirms. Moreover, for the Italian politician a clear symptom of the real objective is one of the proposals made during the Parliament of the three provinces of the Euroregion –which meets every two years since 1991-, celebrated the 30th of March in Merano. “The Liberals called for a joint bid to host the Olympic Games”, tells Vezzali surprised.

“South Tyrol has many rights in education, executive and legislative branches, but they never cease to ask for more. Although they have everything they need as minority”, Maurizio Vezzali says.

This opinion is shared by the researcher Alice Engl: “After achieving the autonomy, the minority parties in South Tyrol need another project on the fight; otherwise they have no reason to be”.

Luis Durnwalder has been the president of the region for more than 60 years. |By Beatriz Paúl Naya

South Tyrol: Nothing to fear

Luis Durnwalder, president of the Autonomous Province of Bolzano and the Autonomous Region of Trentino-South Tyrol, conceives the Euroregion as “a connection between two countries and a way to harmonize. In Austria they only speak German, and in Trentino they are Italian speakers, so Bolzano is the bridge between two cultures in Europe.”

However, the president is aware that from Rome they may think that the establishment of the Euroregion is a danger and they could fear that the terror of the 60s is back again.

But Durnwalder reassures Rome: “If we wanted the independence, the Euroregion would not be the appropriate tool to achieve it. This is in the context of the European Union and it is too formal.”

Just a strategy to avoid the main purpose

For the central government the Euroregion could mean a threat and for the president of the region it is only a matter of cooperation. However,on the the other extreme is Eva Klotz, Süd-Tiroler Freiheit parliamentarian fighting for the self-determination: “It’s just a label, there is no content.”

“If we can not have our own administration and laws, for me the name is not important” and she adds: “They already refused to accept the name Euroregion Tyrol and they changed it for the one with the name on the three provinces.”

Even the idea of the common Parliament has no sense for Klotz: “We are able to make recommendations, but we have no power.” Moreover, “we come with nice ideas for working together, but then the states say: ‘No, it is our competence not yours’”. For instance, “in Merano we passed a recommendation to recognize the right to health in the three provinces. But I am sure that it has no future in the national parliaments .”

Referring to Durnwalder, she declares that “he can say that he is working for something, but in fact it is just nothing.” “It is all an excuse to avoid the important step”, Eva Klotz asserts.

Euroregion Tyrol-South Tyrol-Trentino

The Euroregion is formed by the Austrian state of Tyrol and the Italian autonomous provinces of South Tyrol and Trentino. | Wikipedia

  • Members:

State of Tyrol-Austria (700.000 inhabitants)


Autonomous province of Bolzano/South Tyrol- Italy (500.000 inhabitants)


Autonomous Province of Trentino-Italy (500.000 inhabitants)


  • Goals:

– To strengthen the economical, social and cultural relations between the members

– To foster the territorial development

– To represent the EGTC’s interests at European and national institutions

  • Areas of cooperation:

Education, culture, energy, sustainable mobility, health, research and innovation, economy, mountain farming and environment.


Read more about this region in the article, A lifetime for the independence of South Tyrol


About Beatriz Paúl Naya