Gorbachev, Mikhail: The Common European Home

Extract of speech to Assembly of the Council of Europe, Strasbourg, 6 July 1989.

gorbachev[The rise to power of Mikhail Gorbachev in the 1980s, and his policies of perestroika (reform) and Glasnost (openness) opened up new possibilities of co-operation between the European Community and the Soviet Union. These were further enhanced by the peaceful renunciation of Soviet domination over the countries of central and eastern Europe, symbolized by the fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989. Already, some months before, Gorbachev had presented to the Council of Europe Assembly his vision of a ‘Common European home’ and ‘a vast economic space between the Atlantic and the Urals where eastern and western parts would be strongly interlocked’. Although Gorbachev’s successor, Boris Yeltsin, appeared to share his views and the European Union established good relations with Russia during his presidency, signing a partnership and cooperation agreement in 1994, and providing technical assistance worth more than €1.2 bn by the end of 1998, there was less coming together than had been hoped. Russia joined the Council of Europe in 1996, but there seems very little prospect of membership of the EU in the foreseeable future, if ever. An EU-Russia free trade area might be a more practicable objective in the medium term.]

For centuries Europe has been making an indispensable contribution to world politics, economy, culture and to the development of the entire civilization. Its world historic role is recognized and respected everywhere. Let us not forget, however, that the metastases of colonial slavery spread around the world from Europe. It was here that fascism came into being. It was here that the most destructive wars started.

At the same time Europe, which can take a legitimate pride in its accomplishments, is far from having settled its debts to mankind. It is something that still has to be done.

And it should be done by seeking to transform international relations in the spirit of humanism, equality and justice and by setting an example of democracy and social achievements in its own countries. The Helsinki process has already commenced this important work of world-wide significance.

Vienna and Stockholm brought it to fundamentally new frontiers. The documents adopted there are today’s optimal expression of the political culture and moral traditions of European peoples. Now it is up to all of us, all the participants in the European process, to make the best possible use of the groundwork laid down through our common efforts. Our idea of a common European home serves the same purpose too.

It was born out of our realization of new realities, of our realization of the fact that the linear continuation of the path along which inter-European relations have developed until the last quarter of the twentieth century is no longer consonant with these realities. The idea is linked with our domestic, economic and political perestroika which called for new relations above all in that part of the world to which we, the Soviet Union, belong, and with which we have been tied most closely over the centuries.

We also realized that the colossal burden of armaments and the atmosphere of confrontation did not just obstruct Europe’s normal development, but at the same time prevented our country -economically, politically and psychologically- from being integrated into the European process and had a deforming impact on our own development.

These were the motives which impelled us to decide to pursue much more vigorously our European policy which, incidentally, has always been important to us in and of itself. In our recent meetings with European leaders questions were raised about the architecture of our ‘common home’, on how it should be built and even on how it should be ‘furnished’.

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