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The Helsinki Accord: A Growth Industry

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 September 2012

Abstract

Despite conservative opposition, in the late 1970s, Jimmy Carter turned the tide in favor of the Helsinki Accord by taking a strong stand in fostering U.S. participation in it. Korey focuses on the U.S. delegation to the Commission on Security and Cooperation (CSCE) in Europe and credits the success of the Helsinki Accord to U.S. adroit negotiation strategies, beginning with the Carter administration. By 1980, U.S. President Ronald Reagan and Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev came to embrace the “humanitarianism” of the treaty. The Vienna review conference's (1986–89) effort peaked when a milestone was reached in the human rights process, linking it directly to security issues equally pertinent to the East and the West. The author contends that the United States' ardent participation in the monitoring of compliance was particularly effective in putting pressure on the Soviet Union to uphold the agreement within its territory, yielding enormous progress in human rights

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Copyright
Copyright © Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs 1990

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References

1 The Helsinki Final Act, signed on August 1, 1975, by the 35 heads of State of Europe (except Albania) and North America, had been negotiated over a three-year period in Geneva and Helsinki between representatives of governments comprising NATO, the Warsaw Pact, and the neutral/nonaligned group of Europe. The signatories are known collectively as the Conference on Security and Cooperation in EuropeGoogle Scholar.

The Final Act or Helsinki accord of some 40,000 words is composed of three “baskets.” Basket 1, while focusing on military security through confidence-building measures, also includes the centerpiece of the accord, the Decalogue or Ten Principles. The Principles are designed to carefully balance security and human rights.

Basket 2 deals with economic, scientific, technical, and environmental cooperation and places emphasis upon development of East-West trade and increased tourism.

Basket 3 is concerned with cooperation in humanitarian and related fields. It specifically advocates the freer movement of idias, information, and people through family reunnification, increased access to boardcast and print information, and stepped-up educational and culrurl exchanges. As perceived by the West and the nonaligned nations, this Basket is the counterweight to Basket 1 with its emphasis upon security considerations, the principal aim of the Warsaw Pact.

A separate crucial section of the Final Act provides for follow-up review meetings. These, held in Belgrade, Madrid, and Vienna (the next is scheduled for Helsinki in 1992), have served as an implementing organ by focusing world attention upon lack of compliance with the provisions of Helsinki.

* Author's Note: Today, Helsinki has become the focal point of diplomatic discourse on the future of Europe. With the collapse of the various communist regimes in Eastern Europe since the fall of 1989, and the rapid movement toward reunification of the two Germanys, the CSCE is perceived as the key structure for incorporating the remarkable revolutionary changes and providing them with legitimacy and stability. The late fall of 1990 will probably see a special Helsinki summit to ratify the newly created structure in Central Europe and to extend appropriate guarantees concerningborder inviolability of neighboring states.

Even as the Helsinki Final Act of 1975 will be updated on security matters, so to, undoubtedly, will parallel changes take place concerning human rights matters. Free elections and political pluralism will supersede the earlier aim of free movement of peoples and ideas which had provided a powerful motor force for the historic transformation of Eastern Europe. It is not only that the Helsinki process significantly helped shape the current scene; it is contributing the scaffolding of the new Pan-European architecture.

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