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Commission on security and cooperation in Europe

U. S. Helsinki Commission

Mission

We are a US government commission that promotes human rights, military security, and economic cooperation in 57 countries in Europe, Eurasia, and North America. Nine Commissioners are members of the Senate, nine are members of the House of Representatives, and three are executive branch officials.

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Chairman

Representative Alcee L. Hastings

 

Co-Chairman

Senator Roger F. Wicker

  • Our International Impact
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  • The Right to Know, the Right to Act

    The documents presented in this volume are links in a chain reaction of free expression. Taking place inside the Soviet Union and its Eastern European allies, this process of civil protest varies from one locale to another both in scope and content. Its common base, however, can be found in the 1975 Helsinki Accord, the Final Act of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe.

  • The Belgrade CSCE Meeting - U.S. Delegation Statements, Oct. 6 to Dec. 22

    During this reporting period, the most-significant development affecting implementation of commitments undertaken at the Conference of Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) was the beginning on October 4 in Belgrade of the first CSCE follow-up meeting. President Carter's appointment of the distinguished American jurist and diplomat, Arthur J. Goldberg, as Chairman of the US delegation and Ambassador-at-large for CSCE demonstrates the importance which the President attaches to the CSCE process and to the Belgrade meeting in particular. This meeting provides the first opportunity to conduct a full review of the understandings contained in the CSCE Final Act, signed by 35 heads of state at Helsinki in August 1975. It also offers a forum to set forth clearly the President's personal commitment to a dialogue on humanitarian matters as one of the fundamental aspects of detente. Ambassador Goldberg leads a delegation which includes all of the Congressional members of the CSCE Commission as well as members of the Commission staff, a number of distinguished public members from business, academia, the labor movement and other walks of life, plus representatives of several government departments and agencies. In preparing for the Belgrade conference, the United States delega-t tion called upon the resources of other government departments and, with the assistance of the CSCE Commission, heard the views of numerous private organizations whose interests are affected by provisions of the Final Act. As a result, Ambassador Goldberg entered the Belgrade meeting with the broad support of the American people for his important task. On instructions approved personally by the President, all delegation members are working to assure that the Belgrade discussions result in an honest and candid review of areas where progress has been made and of areas where greater efforts are needed, especially in the vital field of human rights. The Administration shares the view expressed in the report issued by the CSCE Commission on the second anniversary of the Helsinki Summit that the Final Act offers significant potential for improvement of relations between East and West. We also agree that much of that potential is yet to be realized. The Belgrade meeting has offered a unique opportunity to give new impetus to the longterm process initiated with signature of the Final Act and to ensure that the great potential represented by this process is not left to dissipate. The Belgrade meeting is a new venture in the history of East- West relations. It is not a negotiation as such, and it does not look toward a new agreement or to changes in the Helsinki Final Act. Its task is to conduct an exchange of views on experience gained during the past two years and to examine means of deepening coopera- tion in the future. The experience gained in the course of this exchange will be one of the most important results of the meeting. Based on this experience, the participants should be better able to pursue implementation both in their own countries and in their mutual relations in years to come.

  • Implementation of the Final Act: Findings and Recommendations Two Years After Helsinki

    In December 1976, at the conclusion of an 18-day study mission in Europe, five members of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe reported that the "potential" of the 1975 Helsinki accords "for improving East-West relations over the long term is far more significant than their initial impact." Eight months of inquiry later-on the second anniversary of the signing of the Final Act-the Commission remains confident of the constructive "potential" of the 35-nation agreement. It finds, however, that much of the potential is yet to be realized. The potential has been dramatized by the popular response in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union to the Helsinki accord provisions on human rights, eased conditions for travel and family reunification and freer flow of information. The impact of the Final Act on private individuals -- thanks to its immediate and widespread publication in the Warsaw Pact states -- has been great. Its publication stimulated significant expectations of change in governmental conduct. Those expectations, however, have been dashed in some instances, realized only partially in many others. Signatories have been obliged by a variety of political considerations to move cautiously, if at all, to tailor their foreign or domestic conduct to the specifications endorsed at the Helsinki summit of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe. Having "declare[d] their determination to act in accordance with the provisions contained" in the Final Act,2 the participating states have -- with a few significant exceptions -- generally continued to act with limited regard for the undertakings they gave one another on August 1, 1975. The Final Act was meant to give an impulse toward a common code of European and North Atlantic diplomatic and civil conduct. Both an expression of and a political stimulus to the process of international detente, the Final Act is also, quite specifically, a framework for relaxation of East-West tensions and the promotion of more stable relations between different and differing social systems. As a nonbinding declaration of intentions (not a treaty), however, it could do no more than define aspirations and outline the manner in which they were to be met. The record of its implementation is the test of its impact. The record of the first 2 years has been more productive than the Commission expected, though far short of the high promises which the language of the Final Act holds forth. Signatory nations have treated the document seriously, though respect for some of its provisionsparticularly in the area of human rights -- has not matched either the commitments given nor the hopes those pledges aroused. The Helsinki accord has not brought dramatic changes in East-West relations, but history may note it as more than a small step toward peace and a stability based on something more than mutual fear. Two years is a relatively short time in which to alter the long standing practices of sovereign nations, either in regard to one another or to their citizenries. In measuring the achievements of the Helsinki accord, Secretary of State Cyrus R. Vance cautioned the Commission, "I do not think that one can take a look at it in this moment alone and say it has either been a success or a failure. I think what you have now is a mixture of things. We have some slight movement forward in certain areas; we have no movement in others; and we have retrogression in others. But I think that a process has been started. . . and that we must stay with that process and continue to press what we believe to be correct." The Commission concurs in stressing the value of a process which has made it possible for the officials and private citizens of the 35 signatories to engage one another in discussions and exchanges made legitimate and significant by the Final Act. At the international level, the conference of the participating states in Belgrade this year creates the first opportunity to evaluate jointly the progress that has and has not been made and to impart fresh momentum to the process which the Final Act set in motion. The conferees at Belgrade, however, have little reason for self-congratulation. As they review the record of implementation. they must conclude-as this Commission does-that the distance to be covered toward the Final Act's goal of "peace, security and justice and the continuing development of friendly relations and cooperation" is far greater than the very limited advances already achieved. No participant in the Belgrade meeting can convincingly claim for his nation a perfect record of compliance with all Final Act principles and provisions. All too often the intentions the signatories expressed have been ignored in practice. On occasion-and, in some instances, systematically-the letter and spirit of the Helsinki accord have been violated. The burden of responsibility for failures of omission and commission in human rights and humanitarian matters does fall more heavily on the countries of the Warsaw Pact than on the other 28 si-natories, either individually or in various groupings. It must be recognized that the Final Act, by the nature of its provisions, calls for more action by the Soviet Union and its East European allies to alter existing practices than it requires of the Western signatories. It would be a mistake, however, to consider all Warsaw Pact states as having entirely common policies in this regard. There is a degree of East European govern- ment concern over human rights to which Western observers are sometimes insensitive. A relatively open society has little difficulty honoring commitments such as those of the Final Act signatories -- to ease travel, contact, and flow of information across frontiers. The adjustment -- though it has not yet been fully made in the visa-issuing practices of France, Great Britain, and the United States, for instance -- need not be politically wrenching. Rapid, full compliance would, however, be unsettling to the traditions and attitudes of the Communist nations. Yet even where gestures of compliance have been made, they have been dilatory and largely cosmetic. Progress, in summary, has been inadequate. Measured against either the hopes voiced at the Helsinki summit or the need for smoother and more stable relations among the signatories, the implementation of the Final Act has fallen short.

  • IMPLEMENTATION OF THE HELSINKI ACCORDS VOL. IV - REPORTS ON SOVIET REPRESSION AND THE BELGRADE CONFERENCE

    In light of first anniversary of the creation of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, this hearing focused on the work and the plight of courageous individuals who utilized the Helsinki accords as instruments for advancing international respect for human rights. In particular, the hearing delved into the case of Anatoly Shcharansky, one of the most courageous spokesmen of human rights in the U.S.S.R., faces treason charges as groundless as they are ominous. The Soviet decision to hold a show trial for Shcharansky with phony evidence and counterfeit witnesses combined with the earlier arrest of members of Helsinki monitoring groups in Russia, Ukraine, and most recently, in Georgia, were in violation of the Helsinki accords.

  • Second Semiannual Report on the Implementation of the Helsinki Final Act - US Department of State

    The Second Semiannual Report by the President to the U.S. Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, also known as the Helsinki Commission, on the implementation of the Helsinki Final Act from December 1, 1976 to May 31, 1977.

  • Implementation of the Helsinki Accords Vol. III – Information Flow, And Cultural And Educational Exchanges

    In this hearing, Commissioner Dante Fascell and others discussed the impact that the Helsinki Accords had on easing and expanding the flow of ideas and information across ideological and international frontiers. The rationale for this hearing, which consisted of three mornings of testimony, was that, while the Commission has had a long and storied history of hearing and discussing the movement of people, one goal of the Helsinki Accords is to diminish the obstacles that keep the views of others out, which are also the borders that restrict freedom of movement for people.

  • Implementation of the Helsinki Accords Vol I - Human Rights and Contacts

    This hearing focused on the implementation of the Helsinki Accords and explored proposals for advancing compliance.  The Commissioners and witnesses discussed how the accords could better East-West relations. They discussed how the framework of the Helsinki accords helps provide protection against armed intervention in internal affairs, or the threat of such intervention.  The Commissioners heard testimonies from those working on human rights in Warsaw Pact countries and from many American citizens seeking reunification with relatives in Warsaw Pact countries.

  • Implementation of the Helsinki Accords Vol.I - Human Rights & Contacts

    Hon. Dante Fascell, Chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, presided over this hearing on the implementation of the Helsinki Accords. This hearing focused on the Commisison's consideration of the provisions of the 1975 Helsinki Accords dealing with respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms and with freer movement of people and information. The purpose was to define what the Commission knew of implementation of the accords and of their violations, to explore proposals for advancing compliance, and to seek advice on the role the accords played bettering East-West relations. Hon. Fascell was joined by Leonard Garment, former U.S. Representative to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, and Vladimir Bukovsky, former Soviet political prisoner.

  • East-West Economic Cooperation-Basket II-Helsinki Final Act

    Our immediate business is to look at Basket IT, whose scope is greater than mere questions of trade and commerce, because in many ways politics is economics. Basket IT was designed to enhance economic cooperation among CSCE states in a way to loosen restraints inhibiting dealings between the Soviet bloc and the West. The hearing will offer suggestions on resolving problems of trade with eastern CSCE states; and how the U.S. Government deals with Basket II problems and how it can improve the overall trade picture by exploiting Basket II provisions in order to bolster East-West trade initiatives.

  • First Semiannual Report on the Implementation of the Helsinki Final Act - US Department of State

    The First Semiannual Report by the President to the U.S. Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, also known as the Helsinki Commission, on the implementation of the Helsinki Final Act.

  • Report of the Study Mission to Europe

    Study Mission of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe visited 18 signatories of the Helsinki Final Act between November 5 and November 23, 1976. The purpose of the Mission was to gather information about the current status of implementation of the provisions of the Helsinki accords and to establish contacts with key European political and governmental officials as well as private individuals and organizations concerned with various aspects of the implementation process. The CSCE Study Mission was composed of Rep. Dante B. Fascell, D-Fla. (Commission chairman); Sen. Claiborne Pell, D-R.I. (co-chairman); Rep. Jonathan Bingham, D-N.Y.; Rep. Millicent Fenwick, R-N.J.; and Rep. Paul Simon, D-Ill. Travelling individually, Commissioners and staff aides met with government officials and parliamentarians in Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, the Federal Republic of Germany, Greece, Italy, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, the Netherlands,' Norway, the Holy See, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, the United Kingdom and Yugoslavia, as well as with experts at NATO, the European Community, the Council of Europe, UNESCO, the Intergovernmental Committee on European Migration, the OECD, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, and the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe. The Mission regrets that it could not confer with all signatory countries at this time and intends to do so in the future. The limited time available precluded visits to some countries. The Warsaw Pact countries, however, refused to permit the Commissioners to visit their countries, an action which runs counter to the very spirit of Helsinki. Additionally, the Study Mission met with half a dozen private refugee organizations, a number of recent Soviet exiles, more than 30 businessmen and organizations active in East-West trade, a cross section of journalists specializing in Eastern European affairs, and more than 20 individuals and private institutions conducting research on Helsinki implementation questions. Commission members Mansfield Sprague and James G. Poor from the Departments of Commerce and Defense, respectively, attended the initial and final joint Study Mission sessions in Brussels and London, and Commissioner Monroe Leigh of the Department of State attended the Brussels meetings.

  • Helsinki Final Act (Long Version)

    The Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe, which opened at Helsinki on 3 July 1973 and continued at Geneva from 18 September 1973 to 21 July 1975, was concluded at Helsinki on 1 August 1975 by the High Representatives of Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Cyprus, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, Finland, France, the German Democratic Republic, the Federal Republic of Germany, Greece, the Holy See, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, San Marino, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, the United Kingdom, the United States of America and Yugoslavia. During the opening and closing stages of the Conference the participants were addressed by the Secretary-General of the United Nations as their guest of honour. The Director-General of UNESCO and the Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe addressed the Conference during its second stage. During the meetings of the second stage of the Conference, contributions were received, and statements heard, from the following non-participating Mediterranean States on various agenda items: the Democratic and Popular Republic of Algeria, the Arab Republic of Egypt, Israel, the Kingdom of Morocco, the Syrian Arab Republic, Tunisia.

  • The Helsinki Final Act

    The Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe, which opened at Helsinki on 3 July 1973 and continued at Geneva from 18 September 1973 to 21 July 1975, was concluded at Helsinki on 1 August 1975 by the High Representatives of Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Cyprus, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, Finland, France, the German Democratic Republic, the Federal Republic of Germany, Greece, the Holy See, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, San Marino, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, the United Kingdom, the United States of America and Yugoslavia. During the opening and closing stages of the Conference the participants were addressed by the Secretary-General of the United Nations as their guest of honour. The Director-General of UNESCO and the Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe addressed the Conference during its second stage. During the meetings of the second stage of the Conference, contributions were received, and statements heard, from the following non-participating Mediterranean States on various agenda items: the Democratic and Popular Republic of Algeria, the Arab Republic of Egypt, Israel, the Kingdom of Morocco, the Syrian Arab Republic, and Tunisia.

  • Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe

    In July 1973 the Foreign Ministers of 33 European countries and the United States opened the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE), in Helsinki. Since then the participants have made slow but steady progress on a broad range of security, political, economic and other issues of mutual concern. As the conference reaches what appears to be a conclusive stage interest in its eventual outcome has mounted both in Congress and throughout the Nation: Special concern has been expressed over the implications the Conference may have for such issues as human rights in Eastern Europe, the division of Germany, U.S. force levels in Europe, and the future of the Baltic nations of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania.

  • Parliamentary Diplomacy

    Parliamentary diplomacy is an important tool in U.S. foreign policy, especially in the United States, where the legislative and executive branches share responsibility for foreign policy. Commissioners have championed the development of parliamentary assemblies for regional organizations throughout the world.  In the OSCE region, U.S. interests are advanced through the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, which offers opportunities for engagement among parliamentarians from OSCE participating States. The OSCE PA debates current issues related to OSCE commitments; develops and promotes tools to prevent and resolve conflicts; supports democratic development in participating States; and encourages national governments to take full advantage of OSCE capabilities. The Helsinki Commission organizes bicameral U.S. delegations to OSCE PA meetings throughout the year. With 17 of 323 seats, the United States has the largest representation in the assembly.  The active involvement of members of Congress in debates and dialogue assures all other states—including allies and friends as well as adversaries—of the depth of the U.S. commitment to security in the OSCE region. Service Members of Congress consistently have held leadership positions in the OSCE PA since its inception. Helsinki Commission Chairman Rep. Alcee L. Hastings served as a committee officer, as president of the OSCE PA from 2004 to 2006, and for many years was the OSCE PA Special Representative on Mediterranean Affairs. Sen. Roger Wicker currently serves as an OSCE PA vice-president and formerly chaired the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly's Committee on Political Affairs and Security. In addition, Sen. Ben Cardin serves as the Special Representative on Anti-Semitism, Racism, and Intolerance, and Rep. Chris Smith is the current Special Representative to the OSCE PA President on Human Trafficking Issues. Rep. Richard Hudson is a vice-chair of Ad Hoc Committee on Countering Terrorism, and Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee serves on the Ad Hoc Committee on Migration. Sen. Cardin, Rep. Steny Hoyer, and Rep. Robert Aderholt have all served as committee officers as well as vice presidents of the OSCE PA, and former Rep. Hilda Solis served as a committee officer and Special Representative on Migration. Leadership The OSCE PA allows the United States to introduce new issues and concerns that ultimately need to be addressed by the OSCE. While the OSCE operates based on consensus decision-making, meaning just one of the 57 participating States can block a decision, the OSCE PA operates on majority voting, allowing for adoption of resolutions on more controversial issues that need to be confronted directly. Efforts to protect press freedom, combat trafficking in persons, and respond to anti-Semitism, racism, and other forms of intolerance in society became central to the OSCE’s work following OSCE PA initiatives.  The OSCE PA also encourages the OSCE to further develop its partnerships with Mediterranean and Asian states.  Responsiveness Central to OSCE diplomacy is the notion that respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms is part of a comprehensive definition of security, and that raising concern about violations of these rights and freedoms in other states does not constitute interference in the internal affairs of that state. Still, many states resist discussion of their human rights performance. The United States has generally been more responsive to the concerns raised about its record, including the conduct of elections, use of the death penalty, or treatment of Guantanamo Bay detainees.  Both diplomatic and congressional representatives have accepted legitimate concerns raised, provided clarification when necessary and acknowledged shortcomings that do exist. Members of the U.S. Congress have a diversity of opinions that they express at parliamentary forums, rather than reflecting a single official policy. Thus, the U.S. delegation sets an example for others to follow, particularly in other parliaments where political pluralism is stifled. Field Activity The Helsinki Commission has observed scores of elections in other OSCE participating States since contested elections were first held in the formerly one-party communist states of Eastern Europe and then-republics of the Soviet Union in the late 1980s and early 1990s. OSCE PA observation missions effectively deploy commissioners and commission staff to observe elections and encourage their free and fair conduct.

  • Statements

    See what our chair, co-chair, and commissioners have had to say on the floor of the House and the Senate.

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