The Helsinki process

In many respects, 1990 was a watershed year for the 34-state Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (with German reunification reducing the former 35 signatories by one). The dramatic changes that took place in the direction of human rights improvements and democracy represented a vindication of the Helsinki process - and of persistent efforts over the years by Helsinki monitors within the USSR and Eastern Europe, as well as by the United States and other Western governments and non-governmental organizations.

The historic November Paris CSCE summit was a milestone in forging new directions for the CSCE, whose increasing importance on the changing European scene was much touted. The summit produced several small permanent CSCE institutions, including a small Secretariat, a Conflict Prevention Center and Elections Monitoring Center, as well as several new meetings, including one on national minorities to be held in Geneva next July.

Yet concerns began to rise that the CSCE might not be meeting some of the pressing issues confronting Europe, notably, the assertion of national self-determination among various Soviet and Yugoslav republics. And CSCE continued to be lukewarm towards efforts throughout the year by Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and others to join the Helsinki process.

Prior to the signing of the November Paris Charter (referred to by some as the new Magna Carta of Europe), two agreements providing guidelines for newly emerging democracies seeking to establish rule-of-law states and free market economies were adopted at the Bonn Economic Conference in April and Copenhagen Conference on the Human Dimension in June.

For Ukraine, it was also an important, if not yet successful, year as far as CSCE is concerned, as the Ukrainian government sought participation in the CSCE process. As did the Baltic states and Armenia, Ukraine sent representatives to the Paris summit to press for formal participation .

The Ukrainian delegation consisted of three members of the Ukrainian Parliament's Committee on Foreign Affairs: Dmytro Pavlychko, chairman, Bohdan Horyn, vice-chairman, and Ivan Drach, who is also president of Rukh.

Earlier Ukrainian Foreign Minister Anatoly Zlenko had written to French Foreign Minister Roland Dumas requesting observer status at the Paris meeting. Mr. Zlenko rejected Moscow's offer to be included as part of the USSR delegation in protest against Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze's refusal to allow Ukraine separate representation at the conference.

And, Ukrainian President Leonid Kravchuk wrote an appeal to the summit participants stressing Ukraine's desire to participate in the Helsinki process as a sovereign and independent actor.

Ukraine's participation in the CSCE process is complicated by the fact that consensus of all participating states, including the Soviet Union, is required for membership. No delegation proposed that Ukraine, or Armenia, be formally represented at the conference.

During the Paris summit, the Ukrainian and Armenian representatives held a well-publicized press conference at which they issued a joint statement. "We are committed to participate actively in the work of the CSCE, not for the purposes of confrontation but, on the contrary, to maintain stability in Europe and for the strengthening of our still frail democracies," the statement said. "At the same time, we have not lost hope that the aspiration of every nation to self-determination, independence and cooperation will be met with understanding and support by the European community."

Ukrainian opposition parliamentarian Oles Shevchenko and Rukh activist Yevhen Proniuk had attended the Copenhagen CSCE Conference on the Human Dimension held in June, as did representatives of the World Congress of Free Ukrainians, at which they pressed outstanding human rights issues and helped lay the groundwork for Ukraine's eventual participation in CSCE.

At the time of the Copenhagen conference, the democratic bloc of Ukrainian SSR people's deputies grouped in the National Council had sent an open letter to the conference expressing their firm belief that Ukraine, as a nation of 52 million "should be allowed an independent place in the political life of the nations of Europe" and, thus, should be allowed to participate in the Helsinki process.

A month later, the Ukrainian SSR's Permanent Mission to the United Nations got into the act as well. Ambassador Gennadiy Udovenko told a Geneva press conference that Ukraine, since it had declared its sovereignty, will want to participate in the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe.

Finally, after the Ukrainian Helsinki Union in April transformed itself into the Ukrainian Republican Party, in August an independent citizen's group - Helsinki '90 - was formed in Kiev by some 30 former political prisoners and activists to continue the human rights monitoring traditions of the Ukrainian Helsinki Group/Union.

- Orest Deychakiwsky

Copyright © The Ukrainian Weekly, December 30, 1990, No. 52, Vol. LVIII

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