Proceedings, Debates of the U.S. Congress
COMMEMORATING 20TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE SIGNING OF HELSINKI FINAL ACT
(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 [www.gpo.gov] COMMEMORATING 20TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE SIGNING OF HELSINKI FINAL ACT ______ 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 Agenda.'' 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 entitled. 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 agenda. 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 history. 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 keep.'' 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 Helsinki [[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 perish. 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 future. 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. ____________________