TRIESTE, THE CITY OF CONSULS 1732 – 2004
The first Consulate in Trieste was opened in 1732 to be followed by a number of other Consulates in the ensuing 50 years. They were those of:
the Ottoman Greece, the Papal States, the Order of the Knights of Malta, the Kingdom of Naples and Sicily , the Kingdom of Denmark, the Kingdom of Spain, the United Provinces of the Netherlands, the Republic of Venice, the Kingdom of France, the Kingdom of Malta, the Russian Empire, the United Kingdom of Great Britain, the Duchy of Modena, the Republic of Genoa, the Republic of Dubrovnik, the Kingdom of Sardinia, the Kingdom of Sweden, the Grand Duchy of Tuscany, the Kingdom of Portugal, the Kingdom of Prussia, the Duchy of Bavaria, the Electoral Palatinate, the Helvetic Republic, the Ottoman Porte , the United States of America, the Republic of the Seven Ionian Islands, the Kingdom of Siciliy, the Kingdom of Naples, the Kingdom of Italy, and the Austro – Hungarian Empire.
The History of Trieste’s Consular Corps can be divided into the following periods:
– Trieste’s Consulates during the Habsburg Empire
– Trieste’s Consulates after its return to Italy
– Trieste’s Consulates in the period from 1940 to 1954
– Trieste’s Consulates in the EU era
It is because of trade and of the activity of the port of Trieste that lot of countries decided to open their own Consulates. In this way they could represent and meet all the needs of the smaller ethnic and religious communities that merchants had formed according to their country of origin. They provided them with protection in order to carry on trading, and assisted commanders and crews. The Consuls’ era had arrived.
The first example of the relationship between consular and trading activity during the 18 th century comes from the Ottoman Greece. Its Consulate was opened in 1732 by Capt. Liberale Giacomo Baseo, who can be considered the Doyen of Trieste’s Consular Corps. He had accepted the proposal made to Emperor Charles VI by a group of merchants at the Senigallia Exhibition. On 10 th December 1761 Giacomo Marzani was appointed Consul in Venice .
Many other countries then decided to open their own Consulates in Trieste. First of all because Trieste Freeport, which was the greatest port of the Habsburg Empire, had attracted tradesmen from all over the world. Secondly because they wanted to follow the example of Maria Theresa of Austria, who had issued guidelines (1758, modified in 1774) for the activity of the Austrian Consuls in the Italian and the Eastern regions of the Empire.
During World War I several Consulates were closed until 1918 and their tasks were accomplished by those of Sweden, Switzerland and the US. The Swiss Consulate for example helped the Kingdom of Italy, which had no representatives within the city, to provide its citizens with their monthly benefits (45 kronen ).
After World War I Trieste lost its Hapsburg geopolitical role and it became just another of the several ports within the Kingdom of Italy. As a result there was a sharp turn down in trading and many merchant communities moved with their ships and Consulates to Venice, allowing it to regain the important role which Austria had once denied it .
The fall and the splitting of the Austro – Hungarian Empire into six different States jeopardised rapid and cheap transport of goods to and from the port of Trieste.
In 1935 there were 19 career Consuls and 17 Honorary Consuls.
In 1939 Trieste Consular Corps faced another difficult situation. The Ministery of Foreign Affairs invited Legations to dismiss all Jewish Consuls. The Mexican Consul, Paolo Gattegno, subsequently resigned from his post on 27 th March 1939 because he belonged to the Jewish “race”. He was followed by Andrea Pollitzer, proposed as Consul of the “Jewish” Paraguay in 1937, and by Ernest Krausz, the Swedish Consul, who came from “a Jewish family”. On 6 th March 1939 the Ministery for Foreign Affairs wrote to Trieste’s Prefect, “The Swedish Legation has been asked, in strict confidence, to find a substitute for its city’s Honorary Consul, Mr. Leckner, who belongs to the Jewish race”.
At the start of World War II diplomatic relations with Italy brokedown, causing most of the Consulates to close and many career and Honorary Consuls to leave the city. Trieste’s Prefect had to follow the instructions from the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Minister of the Interior. The only Consulate that remained open was that of Switzerland, which played a fundamental role acting on behalf of the entire Consular Corps.
Besides being a seaport and a commercial and industrial city, Trieste has been increasing its strategic geopolitical role and houses important scientific and research institutions.
As part of the European Union, the city is benefiting from the renewed presence of the States which had contributed to its economic and cultural prosperity, therefore allowing it to once again reach the position it had under the Habsburg Empire.