After all efforts aimed at re-integrating this area had remained unsuccessful, Austria tried to achieve the highest possible degree of autonomy for South Tyrol after the Second World War in direct negotiations with Italy within the framework of the Paris Peace Conference. These negotiations eventually resulted in the Paris Agreement of 1946, which forms part of the peace treaty with Italy. However, the realisation of the autonomy Italy had committed itself to grant was long in coming. In contrast to the spirit of the agreement, Italy granted autonomy rights not to South Tyrol alone, but to a region extended by the Trentino, thus putting the German-speaking population into a minority position.
As the efforts at diplomatic level remained without results, Austria submitted the problem of South Tyrol to the UN General Assembly in 1960, which then adopted two resolutions calling upon Austria and Italy to engage in the relevant negotiations. Finally, in 1969, these negotiations resulted in a comprehensive model for a resolution which was met with approval by both the South Tyroleans and the Austrians. It consisted of the so-called "South Tyrol Package", which contained all the measures Italy was to take for the benefit of the German-speaking ethnic group in South Tyrol, and a "calendar of operations", which was a time-table for the implementation of the measures outlined in the package and subsequently for the settlement of the dispute with Austria. Another prime goal of the package consisted in guaranteeing a substantial autonomy for the province of Bolzano by limiting the competencies of the region.
The realisation of the measures provided for in the package dragged on longer than envisaged: the last measures were implemented only in 1992. After the implementation of the package had been examined by South Tyrol and the Austrian federal government, both the South Tyrolean People’s Party (SVP), as the party representing the majority of the German-speaking ethnic group in South Tyrol, and the Austrian parliament agreed to the settlement of the dispute with Italy. The handing over of identical declarations by Austria and Italy to the UN Secretary-General in June 1992 marked the official settlement of the dispute on the implementation of the Paris Agreement. But Austria continues to exercise the protective function concerning South Tyrol’s autonomy and in this capacity keeps a constant eye on the ongoing implementation of the autonomy agreement. Austria’s protective function for South Tyrol is being carried out with discernment by the Austrian government. Austria takes a keen interest in the developments in South Tyrol as well as the autonomy of South Tyrol, and there are regular exchanges on the political as well as on working level between Vienna, Innsbruck and Bolzano.
Today, more than twenty years after the completion of the package and the settlement of the dispute in 1992, the autonomy is functioning to the satisfaction of all concerned, Apart from the advantages gained from autonomy itself, the German-speaking ethnic group in Italy has benefited greatly from the dynamism of the European integration process: upon Austria’s accession to the European Union at the beginning of 1995, the political framework conditions improved decisively for South Tyrol, the Schengen Agreement subsequently pushed the separating aspects of the national border largely into the background and, finally, the introduction of a common currency contributed substantially to the dismantling of economic and financial barriers.
History has shown that the autonomy can be seen as a common good of the three living language groups in South Tyrol (German, Italian, Ladin), that needs to be preserved and dynamically developed. Austria is convinced that there is a direct inter-relation between the beneficial development of the German-speaking ethnic group in South Tyrol and close, friendly ties between Austria and Italy, and therefore devotes particular attention to maintaining these relations.
On European level the autonomy of South Tyrol serves as model for the solution of minority conflicts. The joint EU membership of Austria and Italy has created additional bindings to the benefit of South Tyrol. In addition, the cross-border cooperation has received an important impulse through the "European Region of Tyrol-South Tyrol -Trentino". The three regions have been cooperating intensively in a number of areas, including business, transport and communication, research, culture, education, the environment and tourism. In 2011 a European grouping of territorial cooperation (as foreseen by Regulation (EC) No 1082/2006) was established by the three regions. Austria strongly supports this type of cross-border cooperation between regional authorities.