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Eastern Europe (Religious Freedom)

Volume 466: debated on Monday 27 June 1949

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asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what further action he proposes to take through the United Nations organisation or elsewhere to secure the religious freedom now guaranteed by treaties in Bulgaria, Hungary and Roumania.

The issue of religious freedom is part of the larger issue of human rights in regard to which the Bulgarian, Hungarian and Roumanian Government all undertook certain obligations in the Peace Treaties. As the House will already be aware, His Majesty's Representatives in Sofia, Budapest and Bucharest addressed notes to the three Governments on 2nd April charging them with having repeatedly violated and continuing to violate these particular provisions of the Treaties. Their replies were very unsatisfactory and not one of the three Governments addressed itself to answering the charges made against it. The Peace Treaties provide that whenever a dispute arises concerning their interpretation or execution and is not settled by direct diplomatic negotiation, it shall in the first instance be referred to the Soviet, United Kingdom and United States diplomatic representatives in the country concerned. His Majesty's Representatives accordingly addressed further notes to the three Governments on 31st May informing them that in the view of His Majesty's Government disputes in this sense had arisen. They also addressed notes to their Soviet and United States colleagues informing them of the existence of these disputes and proposing that since they had not been resolved by diplomatic negotiation an early meeting of the three Heads of Missions should be held to consider them in accordance with the procedure laid down in the Treaties.The Soviet Government informed His Majesty's Government through their Embassy in London on 12th June, however, that in their opinion it was unnecessary for the Heads of their diplomatic missions in Sofia, Budapest and Bucharest to join their British and United States colleagues in considering the disputes. His Majesty's Government naturally regret that the Soviet Government should have refused to co-operate in putting the Treaty enforcement provisions into practice. If the Heads of Missions fail to resolve the disputes the Treaty provides as a next step for the creation of commissions composed of one member named by each party and a third member named by agreement between the parties or appointed by the Secretary-General of the United Nations. Since the Treaties provide a two months period during which the disputes remain theoretically before the three Heads of Mission the question of naming these commissions will not arise until the end of July.The House will no doubt also be aware that the question of religious freedom in Bulgaria and Hungary was raised at the last session of the General Assembly of the United Nations when the representative of the United Kingdom supported a resolution drawing the attention of these two Governments to their obligations under the Peace Treaties. The question is retained on the agenda of the fourth session of the Assembly.