IX. The problem of reform
5. The Mürzsteg Programme
The Gendarmerie Scheme, Financial Control
The first draft of the Mürzsteg scheme was a large and ambitious charter of reforms, (1) The main point was the nomination of two Civil Assessors representing Austria and Russia, who were to sit, as it were, at the right and the left of Hilmi Pasha and guide him in the straight path. Unfortunately their powers are purely advisory. They may investigate abuses through their travelling secretaries, they may demand redress, and they may suggest improvements. But it is open to Hilmi Pasha to refer any and every matter in dispute between himself and his two advisers to Constantinople. He is the mere shadow of the Palace, and they are only the eyes of the Embassies. In short, there has been no decentralisation, and the Palace, checked to some slight extent by the Embassies, is still supreme in Macedonia. The Civil Assessors are merely glorified consuls, with higher rank but no ampler powers. The sole result of their presence in Macedonia is that their Governments have more detailed and authoritative reports of the old anarchy, the habitual corruption, and the incurable stagnation of Turkish rule.
(2) A rearrangement of administrative areas was promised, doubtless with the object of disentangling the rival races whom the Turks have sedulously confounded. Nothing has been done to give effect to this, beyond the exclusion of the purely Greek and Albanian districts from the scope of the reforms. Old Servia, Elbasan, Koritza, and Selfidje are
left untouched by any European control, thus leaving within the area of reform a Macedonia practically identical with that of the Treaty of San Stefano, and for the most part Slavonic. But the old boundaries of the vilayets remain unaltered.
There has been an experiment of doubtful value in the direction of better taxation. For the first year (1904) two small groups of villages in the Monastir vilayet have had their tithes collected, either directly from the peasants or indirectly through the landlords, but without the intervention of tax-farmers. As yet, however, there is no evidence that this experiment will be generally adopted, and it has been extended for a second year (1905) only to three cazas. It leaves the landowners with all their old powers.
For two years no attempt was made to reorganise the finances, but at
the moment of writing the Powers are engaged in imposing a system of international
control upon the Porte. The reorganisation of the courts of justice is
promised, but nothing has yet been attempted, or even proposed.
The Gendarmerie SchemeIt is only (6) in the reorganisation of the gendarmerie that any progress has been made, and even here the gain is rather in the recognition of principles than in the achievement of actual results. The discussion of the basis of the proposed reform of the gendarmerie occupied six weary months, during which the Turks resisted and fought for time, while only the British Ambassador exhibited any particular eagerness for a satisfactory outcome. It was decided that the new gendarmerie should be the nucleus of an international force. Austria and Russia enjoy no special privileges. The Commander is the Italian General de Giorgis, but, unfortunately, his authority was surrendered from the beginning, since he entered the Turkish service without reserves, and seems to have held it a point of honour to take his instructions loyally from his Turkish paymasters. Under him is a staff of five superior officers representing the Powers concerned, who have not entered the Turkish
service or donned the Turkish uniform.  Each has his own secteur, and the allotment of these areas presented several thorny diplomatic problems. Indeed, the Powers debated this question as if they were delimiting spheres of influence, or partitioning Macedonian territory, instead of merely assigning districts to be reformed. Russia obtained the town of Salonica and the western portions of the vilayet — an important point if it be true that Austria covets the port. To Italy was given Monastir, and if her aim be to permeate and ultimately occupy Southern Albania she has here a valuable center for her propaganda, — though to be sure the purely Albanian districts of the Monastir vilayet are excluded. Austria settled in Uskub, which would be a natural centre for the penetration of Northern Albania — though here again the Albanian district known as "Old Servia" was excluded. To France was given the town and sandjak of Serres, a populous and intensely disaffected district which marches with the Bulgarian frontier. England, anxious only to efface herself in the presence of so many rivalries, was content to receive the little district of Drama, a sparsely peopled and fairly tranquil region of no political importance, where the population is mainly Moslem, and, so far as it is Christian, is chiefly Greek.
The original idea, when the negotiations began at Constantinople, was apparently to create a genuine international gendarmerie for Macedonia with a staff of some sixty European officers in executive command, assisted by a still larger force of European non-commissioned officers. This would indeed have been a reform worth attempting. It was a proposal which would have made Europeans personally responsible for the order and security of Macedonia. Officers in the towns and sergeants in the larger villages would have guaranteed life, honour, and property to the peasants. The native element, well and regularly paid, and liable to instant dismissal in the case of misconduct, would soon have learned discipline, and might even
1. There is also one German officer who has no secteur, but occupies himself with the school in Salonica.
have grown enthusiastic in the discharge of its duties. The villagers would have realised that Europe had at last accepted a real responsibility for their lot, and from the moment the new system came into working order the activity of the insurgents would have ceased. But the Turks stoutly resisted this plan. Austria and Russia did not press it, and England abandoned it when our Ambassador pointed out that it would be difficult to get the Turks to consent to a scheme which involved the command by Christians of a force in which the rank and file is three-parts Moslem. In that rather naïve excuse for abandoning a good and far-reaching project Sir Nicholas O'Conor passed an unconscious criticism on the whole Mürzsteg programme. It leaves the ideal of Turkish ascendancy untouched. As long as we tacitly accept the axiom that no Christian may command a Moslem, we have not even begun to reform. When they abandoned the idea of putting Europeans in executive command of the new gendarmerie, the Powers accepted a serious diplomatic defeat at the hands of the Sultan and condemned their whole scheme to futility.
All idea of a genuine international gendarmerie was thus set aside, and in its place the Powers were content to send a staff of officers — at first only twenty-five in number, now forty-eight — who are variously described as instructors and inspectors. Their task is to reorganise the existing Turkish force and to some extent to educate it. But its command remains exclusively in Turkish hands. The European officers may improve the existing material by means of the school which has been started in Salonica, and they may weed out the more obviously incompetent and corrupt. But they can give no commands. The Turks may or may not use the reformed gendarmerie; the new officers cannot so much as order the arrest of a criminal or organise the capture of a brigand band. Nor are they even permitted to investigate the grievances of the population in their districts. As soon as they arrived they were besieged by peasants anxious to present petitions detailing their wrongs. The result was the issue of a circular by Hilmi Pasha which forbade the new officers
to receive petitions. If an abuse does come under their observation they have no authority to remonstrate with the Turkish officials in their sphere. They can only report to their staff officers, who in turn report to De Georgis Pasha, who may or may not carry the matter to Hilmi Pasha's judgment throne. In the last resort the appeal is to Constantinople. Some little good, however, has been achieved. The gendarmerie is now regularly paid, and, while it does little or nothing to maintain order, it is no longer the scourge it was. It does little good, but not much evil.
The officers where they happen to be keen and energetic do exert some
personal influence, as even an unofficial European in the interior can
always do. The Turks pay some attention even to private remonstrances,
if they are firmly but tactfully made; and the knowledge that grave scandals
may be reported exercises a deterrent effect. The English Relief Agents
were able to do some good in this way during the winter of 1903-4; and
the new officers are doubtless able to make their presence felt in the
same direction, but they have no recognised right of interference.
Financial ControlIn January, 1905, Lord Lansdowne put forward a number of proposals which would have gone far, had they been accepted, to solve the Macedonian problem. He aimed at the decentralisation of the administration, and the inter-nationalisation of the control. He objected to the claim of Austria and Russia to be the only "interested Powers" in Macedonia. He suggested a drastic reduction in the numbers of the Turkish troops quartered in Macedonia, and he would have placed them under the command of the civil authorities. He outlined a scheme for a new Board of Control, occupied mainly with finance but free at the same time to handle political questions, armed with "administrative and executive" powers, and consisting of delegates appointed by England, France, Germany, and Italy, together with the Austrian and Russian Civil Agents. Unfortunately, this excellent programme was accepted only in part by Austria and Russia. The demand for an in-
ternational Financial Commission, which was ultimately presented to the Sultan in May, did indeed admit the delegates of these four Powers to an equality with the agents of Austria and Russia, but it confined the operations of the Commission exclusively to finance, and made no explicit demand for direct executive powers. The Sultan of course resisted, and when the delegates of the four Powers joined the Civil Agents at Salonica, early in October, the Turks refused them official recognition. Coercion followed, on leisurely and somewhat timid lines, and Germany alone refused to share in the naval demonstration. The customs-houses of Mitylene and Lemnos were occupied, but it is not certain that the unanimity of the Powers would have stood the strain of more drastic measures. Early in December a compromise was arranged. The Financial Commission will be constituted under the presidency of Hilmi Pasha, and will include in addition one Turkish member. It will act in conjunction with the Imperial Ottoman Bank, to which the work of audit is entrusted. It will employ three travelling inspectors who are to enter the Turkish service, but they enjoy no right of interference and no administrative authority, and can deal with abuses only indirectly by reporting to the Commission. The Commission, in its turn, is a quasi-deliberative Council, which has no executive powers. It stands completely outside the Turkish administration, and can act only through Hilmi Pasha, who is its executive officer. Should he refuse to carry out its decisions, as he legally may, its only resource is to appeal through the Civil Agents to the Embassies in Constantinople. Finally, while the Commission may enact reforms in taxation and modify the drafting of the budget, the Sultan is allowed a right of veto upon its decisions. Neither the European delegates nor their inspectors are the hierarchical superiors of the local Turkish officials, who depend as before for promotion on the good will of Hilmi Pasha and the favour of the Palace. It is not probable that the Turks will often meet a unanimous decision of the Commission with a direct defiance, but obviously this scheme gives them many oppor-
tunities for obstruction and delay. They will execute its decisions
half-heartedly and in bad faith, while making the most of every conflict
of opinion among the delegates themselves. These are for the most part
inexperienced men, and among them only M. Steeg, the capable and popular
representative of France, starts with the necessary knowledge of Macedonia.
The scheme would work well if Hilmi Pasha were independent enough and wise
enough to further it. But he is merely the Sultan's nominee, and will doubtless
be expected to defeat in detail an obnoxious innovation which his master
was compelled to accept in principle. It seems doubtful whether, even in
the sphere of finance, it can achieve much more than the gendarmerie reforms
have done for public order. But at the best its scope is limited. It may
relieve the peasants from some oppressive burdens, but it will not suffice,
without a remodelling of the law-courts and the gendarmerie, to render
their existence tolerable. It puts no check on the mischief which Hilmi
Pasha may do by fostering racial strife. It will not make the highways
safe or the markets accessible, and to men whose first need is security,
a scientific budget will seem a useless luxury. But none the less the creation
of this new Board goes far to complete a sort of charter of international
right for Macedonia. It limits Turkish authority in theory, and opposes
(still in theory) a genuinely European institution as a barrier against
the ambitions of the interested Powers. To this extent Lord Lansdowne's
recent diplomacy has redeemed the error of his earlier concessions to Austria
and Russia. There is now a sort of scaffolding of reforms built about the
decaying edifice of Turkish government. The state of the interior is no
better than it was, but the machinery of reconstruction is ready whenever
Europe acquires the resolution to use it.
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