There remain those Treaty provisions which relate to the transport and the tariff systems of Germany. These parts of the Treaty have not nearly the importance and the significance of those discussed hitherto. They are pin-pricks, interferences and vexations, not so much objectionable for their solid consequences, as dishonorable to the Allies in the light of their professions. Let the reader consider what follows in the light of the assurances already quoted, in reliance on which Germany laid down her arms.
(i.) The miscellaneous Economic Clauses commence with a number of provisions which would be in accordance with the spirit of the third of the Fourteen Points,--if they were reciprocal. Both for imports and exports, and as regards tariffs, regulations, and prohibitions, Germany binds herself for five years to accord most-favored-nation treatment to the Allied and Associated States. But she is not entitled herself to receive such treatment.
For five years Alsace-Lorraine shall be free to export into Germany, without payment of customs duty, up to the average amount sent annually into Germany from 1911 to 1913. But there is no similar provision for German exports into Alsace-Lorraine.
For three years Polish exports to Germany, and for five years Luxemburg's exports to Germany, are to have a similar privilege,-- but not German exports to Poland or to Luxemburg. Luxemburg also, which for many years has enjoyed the benefits of inclusion within the German Customs Union, is permanently excluded from it henceforward.
For six months after the Treaty has come into force Germany may not impose duties on imports from the Allied and Associated States higher than the most favorable duties prevalent before the war and for a further two years and a half (making three years in all) this prohibition continues to apply to certain commodities, notably to some of those as to which special agreements existed before the war, and also to wine, to vegetable oils, to artificial silk, and to washed or scoured wool. This is a ridiculous and injurious provision, by which Germany is prevented from taking those steps necessary to conserve her limited resources for the purchase of necessaries and the discharge of Reparation. As a result of the existing distribution of wealth in Germany, and of financial wantonness amongst individuals, the offspring of uncertainty, Germany is threatened with a deluge of luxuries and semi-luxuries from abroad, of which she has been starved for years, which would exhaust or diminish her small supplies of foreign exchange. These provisions strike at the authority of the German Government to ensure economy in such consumption, or to raise taxation during a critical period. What an example of senseless greed overreaching itself, to introduce, after taking from Germany what liquid wealth she has and demanding impossible payments for the future, a special and particularized injunction that she must allow as readily as in the days of her prosperity the import of champagne and of silk!
One other Article affects the Customs Régime of Germany which, if it was applied, would be serious and extensive in its consequences. The Allies have reserved the right to apply a special customs régime to the occupied area on the bank of the Rhine, "in the event of such a measure being necessary in their opinion in order to safeguard the economic interests of the population of these territories." This provision was probably introduced as a possibly useful adjunct to the French policy of somehow detaching the left bank provinces from Germany during the years of their occupation. The project of establishing an independent Republic under French clerical auspices, which would act as a buffer state and realize the French ambition of driving Germany proper beyond the Rhine, has not yet been abandoned. Some believe that much may be accomplished by a régime of threats, bribes, and cajolery extended over a period of fifteen years or longer. If this Article is acted upon, and the economic system of the left bank of the Rhine is effectively severed from the rest of Germany, the effect would be far-reaching. But the dreams of designing diplomats do not always prosper, and we must trust the future.
(ii.) The clauses relating to Railways, as originally presented to Germany, were substantially modified in the final Treaty, and are now limited to a provision by which goods, coming from Allied territory to Germany, or in transit through Germany, shall receive the most favored treatment as regards rail freight rates, etc., applied to goods of the same kind carried on any German lines "under similar conditions of transport, for example, as regards length of route." As a non-reciprocal provision this is an act of interference in internal arrangements which it is difficult to justify, but the practical effect of this, and of an analogous provision relating to passenger traffic, will much depend on the interpretation of the phrase, "similar conditions of transport."
For the time being Germany's transport system will be much more seriously disordered by the provisions relating to the cession of rolling-stock. Under paragraph 7 of the Armistice conditions Germany was called on to surrender 5000 locomotives and 150,000 wagons, "in good working order, with all necessary spare parts and fittings." Under the Treaty Germany is required to confirm this surrender and to recognize the title of the Allies to the material. She is further required, in the case of railway systems in ceded territory, to hand over these systems complete with their full complement of rolling-stock "in a normal state of upkeep" as shown in the last inventory before November 11, 1918. That is to say, ceded railway systems are not to bear any share in the general depletion and deterioration of the German rolling-stock as a whole.
This is a loss which in course of time can doubtless be made good. But lack of lubricating oils and the prodigious wear and tear of the war, not compensated by normal repairs, had already reduced the German railway system to a low state of efficiency. The further heavy losses under the Treaty will confirm this state of affairs for some time to come, and are a substantial aggravation of the difficulties of the coal problem and of export industry generally.
(iii.) There remain the clauses relating to the river system of Germany. These are largely unnecessary and are so little related to the supposed aims of the Allies that their purport is generally unknown. Yet they constitute an unprecedented interference with a country's domestic arrangements and are capable of being so operated as to take from Germany all effective control over her own transport system. In their present form they are incapable of justification; but some simple changes might transform them into a reasonable instrument.
Most of the principal rivers of Germany have their source or their outlet in non-German territory. The Rhine, rising in Switzerland, is now a frontier river for a part of its course, and finds the sea in Holland; the Danube rises in Germany but flows over its greater length elsewhere; the Elbe rises in the mountains of Bohemia, now called Czecho-Slovakia; the Oder traverses Lower Silesia; and the Niemen now bounds the frontier of East Prussia and has its source in Russia. Of these, the Rhine and the Niemen are frontier rivers, the Elbe is primarily German but in its upper reaches has much importance for Bohemia, the Danube in its German parts appears to have little concern for any country but Germany, and the Oder is an almost purely German river unless the result of the plebiscite is to detach all Upper Silesia.
Rivers which, in the words of the Treaty, "naturally provide more than one State with access to the sea," properly require some measure of international regulation and adequate guarantees against discrimination. This principle has long been recognized in the International Commissions which regulate the Rhine and the Danube. But on such Commissions the States concerned should be represented more or less in proportion to their interests. The Treaty, however, has made the international character of these rivers a pretext for taking the river system of Germany out of German control.
After certain Articles which provide suitably against discrimination and interference with freedom of transit, the Treaty proceeds to hand over the administration of the Elbe, the Oder, the Danube, and the Rhine to International Commissions. The ultimate powers of these Commissions are to be determined by "a General Convention drawn up by the Allied and Associated Powers, and approved by the League of Nations." In the meantime the Commissions are to draw up their own constitutions and are apparently to enjoy powers of the most extensive description, "particularly in regard to the execution of works of maintenance, control, and improvement on the river system, the financial régime, the fixing and collection of charges, and regulations for navigation."
So far there is much to be said for the Treaty. Freedom of through transit is a not unimportant part of good international practice and should be established everywhere. The objectionable feature of the Commissions lies in their membership. In each case the voting is so weighted as to place Germany in a clear minority. On the Elbe Commission Germany has four votes out of ten; on the Oder Commission three out of nine; on the Rhine Commission four out of nineteen; on the Danube Commission, which is not yet definitely constituted, she will be apparently in a small minority. On the government of all these rivers France and Great Britain are represented; and on the Elbe for some undiscoverable reason there are also representatives of Italy and Belgium.
Thus the great waterways of Germany are handed over to foreign bodies with the widest powers; and much of the local and domestic business of Hamburg, Magdeburg, Dresden, Stettin, Frankfurt, Breslan, and Ulm will be subject to a foreign jurisdiction. It is almost as though the Powers of Continental Europe were to be placed in a majority on the Thames Conservancy or the Port of London.
Certain minor provisions follow lines which in our survey of the Treaty are now familiar. Under Annex III. of the Reparation Chapter Germany is to cede up to 20 per cent of her inland navigation tonnage. Over and above this she must cede such proportion of her river craft upon the Elbe, the Oder, the Niemen, and the Danube as an American arbitrator may determine, "due regard being had to the legitimate needs of the parties concerned, and particularly to the shipping traffic during the five years preceding the war," the craft so ceded to be selected from those most recently built. The same course is to be followed with German vessels and tugs on the Rhine and with German property in the port of Rotterdam. Where the Rhine flows between France and Germany, France is to have all the rights of utilizing the water for irrigation or for power and Germany is to have none; and all the bridges are to be French property as to their whole length. Finally the administration of the purely German Rhine port of Kehl lying on the eastern bank of the river is to be united to that of Strassburg for seven years and managed by a Frenchman to be nominated by the new Rhine Commission.
Thus the Economic Clauses of the Treaty are comprehensive, and little has been overlooked which might impoverish Germany now or obstruct her development in future. So situated, Germany is to make payments of money, on a scale and in a manner to be examined in the next chapter.