(Extensions of Remarks - December 19, 1995)

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[Extensions of Remarks]
[Pages E2390-E2391]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office []



                           HON. FRANK R. WOLF

                              of virginia

                    in the house of representatives

                       Monday, December 18, 1995

  Mr. WOLF. Mr. Speaker, I am honored to represent the House as a 
commissioner on the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe 
and want to bring to the attention of our colleagues the remarks by the 
Honorable Gerald R. Ford, 38th President of the United States, at 
Helsinki, Finland, on August 1, 1995, on the occasion of the 20th 
anniversary of the signing of the Helsinki Final Act of the Conference 
on Security and Cooperation in Europe.

       Thank you for your kind invitation to take part in this 
     historic event whereby we mark the 20th Anniversary of the 
     Helsinki Accords.
       The title for my remarks today--``Helsinki: The Unfinished 
       Before the formal signing of the Helsinki Accord, I warned 
     the world and the other heads of state gathered here that 
     ``Peace is not a piece of paper . . . peace is a process.''
       Twenty years later, the process we began here by signing 
     that piece of paper has given us a super power peace--the 
     Cold War is history.
       Except for the stubborn ethnic conflict in the Balkans 
     which was already ancient when I was born, the course of 
     history has changed because here in Helsinki we recognized 
     certain basic rights to which all human individuals are 
       In 1975 there was considerable opposition in the United 
     States to my participation in the Helsinki meeting. For 
     example, The Wall Street Journal advised in its July 23, 
     1975, editorial: ``Jerry--Don't Go,'' while other American 
     newspapers were equally critical. Some skeptics labeled the 
     Accord--The Betrayal of Eastern Europe. Basket III, which 
     included fundamental human rights language was either ignored 
     by most of the media or criticized as long on rhetoric, but 
     short on substance. Likewise, two of our most influential and 
     respected Senators, one a Democrat and one a Republican, 
     condemned Basket III of the Accord.
       Furthermore, many ethnic groups in the United States, 
     especially those of Baltic heritage, were strongly opposed to 
     portions of the Accord because they believed it legitimized 
     the borders drawn by the Warsaw Pact. The United States and 
     the West German government met this criticism by insisting 
     Basket II language include the following: ``They, (the 
     signers) consider that their frontiers can be changed, in 
     accordance with international law, by peaceful means and by 
     agreement.'' The wholesale political upheaval behind the Iron 
     Curtain that took place fifteen years later made these 
     differences in 1975--academic, especially Latvia, Lithuania 
     and Estonia. The 1975 Helsinki Accord did not freeze the 1945 
     borders of Europe; it freed them.
       The thirty-five leaders of nations on both sides of the 
     Iron Curtain that signed the Final Act of the Helsinki 
     Accord, according to one historian, ``Set in motion a chain 
     of events that helped change history.'' Each of us, including 
     Mr. Brezhnev, who signed the Final Act agreed to a commitment 
     of principle to recognize the existence of certain basic 
     human rights to which all individuals are entitled.
       It is ironic that these accords are often described as the 
     ``Final Act'' when, in fact, they were really just the 
     beginning of an historic process. Today, this process has a 
     past, as well as a present and a future--an unfinished 
       Twenty years ago when I spoke here, my country was 
     beginning the bicentennial observance of our Declaration of 
     Independence. I drew on the inspiration of that great moment 
     in our history for the remarks I made to the Conference in 
     this Finnish Capital. I likened the Helsinki Accords to the 
     Declaration of Independence because I realized that, as with 
     our revolution, it is sacrifice and the indomitable human 
     spirit that truly separate ordinary moments in history from 
     those that are extraordinary. And today, as we reflect on the 
     past twenty years of achievement, we see that it has been the 
     sacrifice and the indomitable human spirit of great people 
     throughout the world that have made the signing of the 
     Helsinki Accords a truly extraordinary moment in modern 
       I well remember the impressive ceremony in Finlandia House 
     where signatures were affixed to a 100 page, 30,000 word 
     joint declaration. In the limelight, representing the thirty-
     five nations, were French President Valerie Giscard 
     d'Estaing, West German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt, British 
     Prime Minister Harold Wilson, Yugoslav President Josip Broz 
     Tito, Rumanian President Nicolae Ceausescu, Canadian Prime 
     Minister Pierre Trudeau, East Germany's Erich Honechor, our 
     host, President Kekkonen and others.
       On the day we signed the Accords, appropriate speeches were 
     made by each nation's representative. On behalf of the United 
     States I chose to emphasize the Final Act's commitment to 
     human rights.
       Let me quote from my speech: ``The documents produced here 
     affirm the most fundamental human rights--liberty of thought, 
     conscience, and faith; the exercise of civil and political 
     right; the rights of minorities.''
       ``Almost 200 years ago, the United States of America was 
     born as a free and independent nation. The descendants of 
     Europeans who proclaimed their independence in America 
     expressed in that declaration a decent respect for the 
     opinions of mankind and asserted not only that all men are 
     created equal, but they are endowed with inalienable rights 
     to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.''
       ``The founders of my country did not merely say that all 
     Americans should have these rights, but all men everywhere 
     should have these rights. And these principles have guided 
     the United States of America throughout its two centuries 
     of nationhood. They have given hope to millions in Europe 
     and on every continent.''
       ``But it is important that you recognize the deep devotion 
     of the American people and their Government to human rights 
     and fundamental freedoms and thus to the pledges that this 
     conference has made regarding the freer movement of people, 
     ideas, information.''
       I continued in my 1975 speech--``To those nations not 
     participating and to all the people of the world: The solemn 
     obligation undertaken in these documents to promote 
     fundamental rights, economic and social progress, and well-
     being applies ultimately to all peoples.''
       ``And can there be stability and progress in the absence of 
     justice and fundamental freedoms?''
       My final comments were: ``History will judge this 
     Conference not by what we say here today, but by what we do 
     tomorrow--not by the promises we make, but by the promises we 
       In retrospect, it is fair to say that Leonid Brezhnev and 
     other Eastern European leaders did not realize at the time 
     that in endorsing the human rights basket of the Helsinki 
     Accord they were planting, on their own soil, the seeds of 
     freedom and democracy. In agreeing to the human rights 
     provisions of the Helsinki Accord, the Soviets and the 
     eastern bloc nations unwittingly dragged a Trojan horse for 
     liberty behind the Iron Curtain.
       Often, current events we believe will be important in 
     history later become obscure and irrelevant. And sometimes, 
     events we consider irrelevant in history, become a defining 
     moment. As former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher noted in 
     Paris in 1990, ``It was clear that we underestimated the 
     long-term affects of the Helsinki Agreement.'' This great 
     British Leader went on to say that the Helsinki Agreements 
     ``were a process which some envisioned as perpetuating the 
     division of Europe [but which have] actually helped overcome 
     that division.'' Likewise, scholars point out that at the 
     time the Magna Carta was adopted in England, its extension of 
     freedom was quite limited and applied only to a privileged 
     few; however, today we recognize the Magna Carta as a 
     dramatic first step on man's march to individual freedom.
       Following the meeting in Helsinki, watch groups sprang up 
     throughout Europe. The Fourth Basket provision for a follow-
     up meeting in Belgrade in 1977 and a subsequent meeting in 
     Madrid in 1980 would give these to those who were aggrieved a 
     global forum for their determined anti-Marxist and pro-human 
     rights views. To those suffering behind the Iron Curtain, the 
     Helsinki Accords was a powerful proclamation that contained 
     seminal ideas it was issued at a most opportune time.
       I applaud President Carter's dedicated and effective 
     support of Arthur Goldberg in Belgrade in 1977 and Max 
     Kampelman in Madrid in 1980; however, it would be obviously 
     unfair to attribute all of the cataclysmic events of 1989 and 
     1990 to the Final Act, in as much as long suppressed 
     nationalist sentiments, economic hardship, and suppressed 
     religious conditions played equally crucial roles.
       Today, as we face the harsh realities of August 1995, I am 
     reminded of the words of President Lincoln as he confronted 
     the awesome challenges of the American Civil War. With the 
     Republic hanging in the balance, he observed that ``the 
     occasion is piled high with difficulties and we must rise 
     with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew 
     and act anew.''
       Yet, even as today's violence and suffering enrage and pull 
     at the heartstrings of all people--and the former Yugoslavia 
     is just one example--I know the central issue in the world 
     remains the preservation of liberty and human rights. When 
     the Berlin Wall fell, those who were protesting repression 
     were reading from documents like the American Declaration of 
     Independence. Today, they are reading to us the words of the 

[[Page E2391]]
     Accords. These are the great ideas of freedom--the constant drumbeat of 
     ideas that have been repeated time and time again in the 
     Helsinki process.
       The harsh realities of the present are challenges which 
     signatories of the Helsinki Accords must address. Its member 
     states must wrestle with these challenges and continue to 
     achieve in the future the aims and goals of what was begun 
     here 20 years ago. To realize these hopes and dreams requires 
     planning, commitment, perseverance and hard work. The 
     Helsinki process provides a vision for a future based on 
     liberty and on the freedom to pursue a better life. As the 
     Bible admonishes, where there is no vision, the people 
       So, I compliment all the signers and I'm very proud to have 
     been one of the thirty-five. In August 1975 we made serious 
     promises to our countrymen and to people worldwide. Where 
     human rights did not exist in the thirty-five nations twenty 
     years ago, there is now significant progress and hope for 
     even better times. I congratulate the people in each nation 
     who used the tools of the Final Act to achieve the blessings 
     of human rights.
       I am confident that if we continue to be vigilant, what we 
     began here two decades ago shall be viewed by future 
     historians as a watershed in the cause of individual freedom 
     and human rights. Twenty years from today, history will again 
     judge whether or not the world is a better place to live 
     because of what we promised here two decades ago, and because 
     of what we promise here today and the promises we keep in the 
       The Helsinki Accords are not, then, a Final Act--rather 
     they are an unfinished agenda for the continued growth of 
     human freedom. On this anniversary date, let us resolve to 
     continue anew the work of that agenda.