Helsinki Accords (Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe – CSCE)

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The Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe’s third phase, known as the Helsinki Process, concluded with the signing of the Helsinki Final Act, also known as the Helsinki Accords or Helsinki Declaration, at a meeting held in Helsinki, Finland, between July 30 and August 1, 1975. The Final Act was signed by all 35 member governments at the time, including the United governments, Canada, and all then-existing European nations (with the exception of pro-Chinese Andorra and Albania). The Helsinki Accords, however, were not legally enforceable since they lacked the status of a treaty that needed to be ratified by parliaments. Unofficially, the phrase “Helsinki pact(s)” was also employed occasionally.

Articels of Helsinki Accords
  1. Equal treatment of all sovereigns and adherence to their inalienable rights
  2. Avoiding using force or threatening to use it
  3. The impassability of borders
  4. States’ territorial integrity
  5. Peaceful resolution of conflicts
  6. Absence of meddling in domestic affairs
  7. Respect for fundamental freedoms and human rights, such as the right to free speech and the right to practice any religion or philosophy
  8. Equal rights and national self-determination
  9. Collaboration between States
  10. Compliance in good faith with international law responsibilities

The second basket offered collaboration in the areas of business, science, and technology as well as increased information flow, business networking, and industrial cooperation. The final basket contained pledges to enhance the social setting of travel, marriage, and family gatherings. Additionally, it aimed to enhance journalistic working conditions and broaden cross-cultural interactions. The fourth basket covered the processes used to keep track of implementation and schedule upcoming meetings.

Informational liberation

Due to Soviet resistance, the United States’ effort to secure a clause banning radio jamming failed to get support. Despite this, the West believed that the agreed-upon definition of “expansion of the dissemination of information broadcast by radio” made jamming illegal. The Soviet Union considered that using jamming as a legal defense against broadcasts that they claimed went against the overall goal of the Helsinki Accords to “meet the interest of mutual understanding among people and the aims set forth by the Conference”

Ford administration
  • The Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe (CSCE) discussions had been going on for almost two years when President Gerald Ford took office in August 1974. Even while the USSR wanted a swift conclusion, none of the participants were eager to compromise, especially when it came to issues involving human rights. US leaders largely remained distracted and uninterested in the negotiations throughout. Henry Kissinger, Secretary of State and National Security Advisor, told President Ford in August 1974, “We never wanted it, but we went along with the Europeans”. It is basically a grandstand play to the left and has no significance. We agree to comply with it.
  • The American public, in particular those of Eastern European ancestry, expressed their worries in the months before the conclusion of negotiations and signing of the Helsinki Final Act that the agreement would signify acceptance of Soviet dominance over Eastern Europe and the forced incorporation of the Baltic States into the USSR. This also worried President Ford, who enquired of the US National Security Council for clarity.
  • The future of the Baltic States and the CSCE in general worried the US Senate as well. In letters to President Ford, a number of senators asked that the final summit stage be postponed until all issues had been resolved, preferably in a fashion that favored the West.
  • Ford also came under fire from a variety of political groups when, in an effort to preserve US-Soviet relations before to the summit, he declined to meet with Soviet dissident Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.
  • In a meeting with a group of Americans of Eastern European descent shortly before he left for Helsinki, President Ford made it clear that US policy toward the Baltic States would not change, but rather would be strengthened, given that the agreement forbids the annexation of territory in violation of international law and permits the peaceful changing of borders.

In July 1975, Ford informed a delegation of Americans from East European ancestry that:

The Helsinki accords contain political and moral promises intended to reduce tensions and improve dialogue between East and West peoples. By adhering to our own moral and legal principles as well as more formal treaty agreements like the United Nations Charter and Declaration of Human Rights, we are not making any additional commitments. If everything fails, Europe won’t fare much worse than it does right now. If even a small portion of it is successful, it will significantly improve the life of Eastern Europeans and promote the cause of independence.

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