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One decade since the Final Act

By Charlotte Saikowski / July 25, 1985



1975 -- The Helsinki Final Act was signed by 35 states of Eastern and Western Europe after three years of negotiations. 1978 -- The first follow-up conference ended in Belgrade, Yugoslavia. The five-month meeting, attended by 140 delegates, was difficult. It produced only a short document, recording that different views were expressed on the degree to which the Final Act had been carried out and that consensus was not reached on a number of proposals submitted. Nonetheless, the Soviets could not avoid talking about the suppression of freedom. The conference also gave the East Europeans leverage against Moscow. When the US and West Europeans criticized the Soviet arrest of three prominent dissidents -- and Moscow threatened to walk out -- the Poles, Romanians, and Hungarians refused to join the Soviets in a vote condemning such criticism as interference in their internal affairs. 1980 -- The Madrid conference was convened. This second review meeting was suspended for nine months in 1982 in response to the imposition of martial law in Poland. But it resumed, concluding in 1983.

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Discussions focused almost entirely on human rights. An agreement was reached that did not go as far as Western members wished but that strengthened the Helsinki process by adding or bolstering language to: ensure the right of workers to organize; speed family reunification; strengthen religious freedom; condemn and suppress terrorism; improve conditions for journalists; expand access of private citizens to foreign diplomatic missions.

Under the Madrid agreement, the ``zone of applicability'' of any such measures will apply to the entire European portion of the Soviet Union, right up to the Ural mountains, instead of the 250 kilomter-wide band set at Helsinki. 1984 -- A conference on European military security was convened in Stockholm to develop confidence and security-building measures with a view to reducing the risk of military confrontation. It is scheduled to resume in September.

The NATO nations have on the table a package of military measures, including an exchange of annual forecasts of planned military maneuvers and the presence of observers at military exercises. The Soviets are pushing the idea of nonfirst use of nuclear weapons. 1984 -- A two-week seminar in Venice, Italy, on economic, scientific, and cultural cooperation in the Mediterranean. 1985 -- A human rights experts meeting was held in Ottawa, Canada. The Soviets refused to engage in substantive preliminary talks and the six-week meeting itself yielded no final document. The Western countries tabled a series of proposals aimed at making the Helsinki provisions more specific. 1985 -- A six-week Cultural Forum attended by leading cultural figures will be held in Budapest, Hungary, in October. It will consider an expansion of cultural exchanges. 1986 -- A meeting on human contacts -- family reunifications and visits, travel, binational marriages -- will be held in Bern, Switzerland, in April. 1986 -- A third major review conference will begin in Vienna in November.