Helsinki Accords, also called the Helsinki Final Act (August 1, 1975), was a very important diplomatic agreement signed in Helsinki, Finland, at the conclusion of the first Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe(CSCE). The Helsinki Accords have primarily been an effort to reduce the tension and hostilities between the Capitalist and Communist blocs by securing their common acceptance of the post-World War II status quo in Europe. The accords were signed by all the European countries as well as by the United States and Canada. The agreement recognized the inviolability of the post-World War II frontiers in Europe and pledged the 35 signatory nations to respect fundamental freedoms and human rights. It also asked the nations to cooperate in economic, scientific, humanitarian, and other areas.
The Helsinki Accords are non-binding and do not have treaty status.Sought by the Soviet Union from the 1950s, a European security conference was proposed by the Warsaw Pact in 1966 and was accepted in principle by the NATO. In 1972 preparatory talks on the ambassadorial level opened in Helsinki. Over the next several months, an agenda was prepared consisting of four general topics, or “baskets”:(1) Questions of European security,(2) Cooperation in economics, science and technology, and the environment,(3) Humanitarian and cultural cooperation, (4) Follow-up to the conference.
After a foreign ministers’ meeting in Helsinki in July 1973, the committees met again in Geneva to draft an agreement. The process lasted for almost two years (September 1973 to July 1975). The principal interest of the Soviet Union was in gaining immediate recognition of its post war territory in eastern Europe through guarantees of the inviolability of frontiers and non-interference in the internal affairs of states. In return for their formal recognition of this, the United States and its western European allies pressed the Soviet Union for commitments on such issues as respect for human rights, expansion of contacts between eastern and western Europe, freedom to travel, and the free flow of information across borders. The Final Act, signed at a summit meeting in Helsinki, reflected both viewpoints. The agreement marked a formal end to World War II, since it recognized all the European national frontiers (including Germany’s division into two countries) that had arisen out of that war’s aftermath.
The Helsinki Process, including the review meetings, led to greater cooperation between Eastern and Western Europe. Representatives from non-aligned countries acted as intermediaries, helping to broker deals between members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the Warsaw Pact. The Vienna Review Meeting introduced recognition of the rights of emigration and religious freedom, which helped to open ties between Eastern and Western Europe.
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