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Building Unity, Sustaining Identity

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'.

Our discussions on this subject with President François Mitterrand in Moscow and in Paris were fruitful and fairly significant in scope. Yet even today, I do not claim to carry a finished blueprint of that home in my pocket. I just wish to tell you what I believe to be most important. In actual fact, what we have in mind is a restructuring of the international order existing in Europe that would put the European common values in the forefront and make it possible to replace the traditional balance of forces with a balance of interests...

If security is the foundation of a common European home, then all-round co-operation is its bearing frame. What is symbolic about the new situation in Europe and throughout the world in recent years is an intensive inter-state dialogue, both bilateral and multilateral. The network of agreements, treaties and other accords has become considerably more extensive. Official consultations on various issues have become a rule.

For the first time contacts have been established between the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the Warsaw Pact, between the European Community and the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance [CMEA], not to mention many political and public organizations in both parts of Europe.

We are pleased with the decision of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe to grant the Soviet Union the status of a special guest state. We are prepared to co-operate. But we think that we can go further than that.

We could accede to some of the international conventions of the Council of Europe that are open to other states - on the environment, culture, education and television broadcasting. We are prepared to co-operate, with the specialized agencies of the Council of Europe.

The Parliamentary Assembly, the Council of Europe and the European Parliament are situated in Strasbourg. Should our ties be expanded in the future and be put on a regular basis, we would open here, with the French Government's consent, of course, a Consulate General.

It goes without saying that interparliamentary ties have major significance for making the European process more dynamic. An important step has already been made: late last year a first meeting of the parliamentary heads of 35 countries was held in Warsaw.

We have duly appreciated the visit to the USSR of the delegation of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe headed by its President, Mr Björck. The delegation could, I hope, feel directly the potent and energetic pulse of the Soviet perestroika.

We regard as particularly important the recently initiated contacts with the European Parliament. Among other things, we took note of its resolutions on military-political issues which are seen by the Parliament as the core of the western European consensus in the area of security ...

As far as the economic content of the common European home is concerned, we regard as a realistic prospect - though not a close one- the emergence of a vast economic space from the Atlantic to the Urals where eastern and western parts would be strongly interlocked.

In this sense, the Soviet Union's transition to a more open economy is essential; and not only for ourselves, for a higher economic effectiveness and for meeting consumer demands.

Such a transition will increase East-West economic interdependence and, thus, will tell favourably on the entire spectrum of European relations.

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Download this file (gorbachev-265.jpg)gorbachev-265.jpg[Gorbachev, Mikhail: The Common European Home]

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