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Volume 974: debated on Sunday 11 November 1979

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The record of implementation in the Soviet Union and a number of Eastern European countries has somewhat deteriorated. The denial of certain basic human rights, and of the freedom of the individual to monitor the implementation by Governments of the Helsinki Final Act, has become, if anything, more marked in the Soviet Union and Czechoslovakia, while adverse developments in the GDR, have, with one important exception, continued. In the same countries relatively little progress has been made in improving the implementation of the human contacts provisions of the Final Act. Implementation in other areas of the Final Act has shown no significant change.

Basket I—Principles Guiding Relations between Participating States; and Confidence-Building Measures and certain aspects of security and disarmament Principles:

The Soviet Union has continued to call for the conclusion of an agreement on the non-first-use of force by CSCE States and, together with its Warsaw Pact Allies, has suggested that there should be a conference at the political level between the CSCE States to discuss this and other security matters. This emphasis on the military aspects of security, described as "military détente", has continued in the public statements of the Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact Allies, to the virtual exclusion of the human dimension of the Final Act.

Implementation in the area of human rights and fundamental freedoms—principle VII—has deteriorated in a number of countries since the last report. In the Soviet Union four members of Helsinki monitoring groups have been arrested during the period under review, three from the Ukrainian group and one from the Armenian group. A leading Moscow human rights activist, T. Velikanova, who has been active in publicising the repression of religious and national minorities, was arrested earlier this month. Two more members of an unofficial religious seminar, V. Poresh and T. Shchipkova, were arrested and another member of the group received a four-year sentence. Father Yakunin, a leading member of the Christian Committee for the Defence of Believers' Rights in the USSR, was arrested at the beginning of this month. In October another member of the unofficial trade union group, SMOT, N. Nikitin, received an 18-month sentence, becoming the third member to be tried since May this year. There have continued to be disturbing reports about the physical condition of several "prisoners of conscience"—including Shcharansky, Ogurtsov and Orlov.

The rate of emigration of Soviet Jews has continued at the level of rather over 4,000 per month established at the end of 1978, though there have been reports of growing numbers of abitrary delays and refusals, particularly in the Ukraine, often on grounds of alleged insufficient kinship with persons abroad. There have also been reports of pressure being brought upon those responsible for an unofficial journal on Jewish cultural and religious affairs. There has been no indication that the concessions to freer movement from which Jewish applicants and those from a few other minority groups have benefited are to be more generally extended.

In Czechoslovakia, the main event in this period was the trial on 22–23 October on charges of subversion of six of the 10 arrested members of the Committee for the Defence of the Unjustly Prosecuted, VONS. The sentences were for terms of imprisonment from three to five years; the fate of the other arrested members of VONS is still undecided. The trials were completed in two days, without foreign observers being allowed access, and despite appeals from a wide range of public and governmental opinion in both East and West. The British Government have made clear to the Czechoslovak authorities on a number of occasions that they deplore the arrests and sentences; the Government of the Republic of Ireland, acting on behalf of the Nine, have also expressed the deep concern of member States about the Czechoslovak action.

Administrative harassment of political and religious dissenters in Czechoslovakia has continued throughout the period. Reports that individual political activists have been detained in psychiatric establishments could reflect a disturbing new trend. The success of VONS in bringing official abuses to public notice may, in part, account for the determined way in which the authorities have moved against them. The procedure of granting fixed term exit permits to prominent Czechoslovak intellectuals has been used several times as a device to induce emigration: during the period, Pavek Kohout, the playwright, was refused permission to return from Austria and deprived of his citizenship.

In Romania, some negative developments have been noted during the latest period. For instance, there have been increased instances of harassment and imprisonment of members of SLOMR, the Free Trade Union of Romanian Working Men. Four members of SLOMR's leadership have been imprisoned and one, Father Calciu, an Orthodox priest, has been jailed for seven and a half years on unrevealed charges. At the same time there are indications that a new propaganda campaign is being launched to combat emigration, religious observance and human rights activism.

In the GDR measures have been introduced, as part of a tightening-up of existing legislation concerning public order, to make the passing of even unclassified information to foreigners and the publication abroad of criticism of the GDR punishable by periods of imprisonment. The GDR authorities, however, announced an amnesty for certain categories of prisoners in connection with its anniversary celebrations and stated its intention to release 20,000–25,000 prisoners. While two prominent political prisoners, Bahro and Huebner, have already been freed, it is not known what proportion of the total of those released will be "political".

In Poland there has, however, been some sporadic but unsustained harassment of leading dissidents, including the jailing for two months in September of Adam Wojciechowski, a member of Amnesty International. The Hungarian Government's domestic policies have continued to be the most liberal in Eastern European terms. Bulgarian implementation in this area has shown neither positive nor negative movement.

Confidence-Building Measures

Advance notification was given of the major Soviet exercise "NEMAN" which took place in the Baltic military district from 23 to 27 July. On this occasion, observers were invited from NATO and other signatory countries. A number of countries, including the United Kingdom, accepted. In the event, less than four hours of direct observation were permitted. No other notifiable exercises are believed to have taken place in the rest of Eastern Europe.

In his speech in East Berlin on 6 October, President Brezhnev indicated Soviet support for the development of additional confidence-building measures. The new elements he proposed were: a reduction from 25,000 to 20,000 of the ceiling above which ground force exercises must be notified; longer notification times for such exercises; the notification of military movements involving more than 20,000 men, and an upper limit of 40,000–50,000 men in the size of ground force exercises. The proposals for the lowering of notification ceilings and for a commitment to notify movements are similar to those which Western and neutral and nonaligned countries put forward at Belgrade. Foreign Ministers of the Nine, meeting in Brussels on 20 November, reaffirmed their view that it was essential to maintain an overall balance between military and other aspects of security in the CSCE process. They agreed, taking into account the proposals made by President Giscard in 1978 for a conference on disarmament in Europe, that the Nine should work for the adoption at the Madrid meeting of a mandate for further negotiations within the CSCE framework on militarily significant and verifiable confidence-building measures applicable to the entire European Continent.

Basket II—Co-operation in the Field of Economics, of Science and Technology and of the Environment

In general there have been no identifiable trends or substantial changes in the period under review. Shortage of hard currency has led to a wider and more restrictive application by certain Eastern European countries of counter trade policies. In Romania, in particular, trade organisations are now demanding 100 per cent. compensation on most contracts. In Hungary and Poland, on the other hand, similar hard currency restrictions have led to an increasing emphasis on the development of co-operation arrangements between Western companies and local producers, both in the countries concerned and in third markets. Despite similar hard currency problems in Czechoslovakia, the latest meeting of the United Kingdom-Czechoslovak joint commission was held in a positive atmosphere and the British section of the Czechoslovak chamber of commerce has been showing increased interest across the whole field of United Kingdom-Czechoslovak trade. In the GDR a number of major industrial projects are under discussion with Western—including British—firms, and in one or two cases contracts could be awarded early in the New Year. In Bulgaria there are encouraging signs of a more flexible attitude towards foreign investment.

Business contacts and facilities

The overall situation remains as in the last report. The Soviet Ministry of Finance is in the process of negotiating a series of double taxation agreements with Western countries which may resolve some of the uncertainties which currently act as disincentives for companies wishing to establish offices in the Soviet Union. In Poland, where some 30 British companies are now established, a decree was issued in September requiring foreign firms to pay their locally recruited staff not less than 50 per cent. more than equivalent grades employed in Polish foreign trade enterprises. The implications of this decree are unclear, and our embassy is currently investigating with the Polish authorities the bases on which the provisions of the decree are to be applied. Shortages of private and business accommodation for foreign business representatives continue to be a major problem in most Eastern European countries, though efforts are being made, in a number of countries, to extend the availability of both.

Economic and commercial information

The differences in practice noted in the last report have continued. While the availability of commercial information in Bulgaria and the GDR has, if anything worsened, Hungary issued its 1979 statistics year book in English for the first time.

Science and technology

Co-operation under bilaterial agreements on science and technology and on the environment has continued satisfactorily. Earlier this month a high-level meeting on the environment was held in Geneva under the auspices of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (ECE), at which representatives of the countries of Europe and North America signed a convention on long range trans-boundary air pollution and endorsed a declaration on low and non-waste technology.

Basket III (Co-operation in Humanitarian and Other Fields) Human Contacts

There have been indications of some deterioration in the record of certain countries whilst others have maintained their previous levels of progress. In the Soviet Union overall implementation under this heading remains disappointing. A list of 23 long-standing personal cases, mainly involving resettlement in the United Kingdom, was submitted to the Soviet authorities in June and a further list, adding one new case, was submitted on 27 September. Only one of these cases has since been satisfactorily resolved. At least two applications for permanent residence in the Soviet Union by British wives have remained outstanding for almost a year.

In the GDR pensioners are still the main category of citizens normally granted exit visas for family reasons; they account for about 95 per cent. of successful applications. As regards non-pensioners, blood relatives are sometimes allowed to visit the United Kingdom for a family celebration or bereavement but the GDR policy in this respect has continued to be restrictive and arbitrary. In the other direction, a British subject who had previously lived in the GDR has been refused permission to visit her children and grandchildren in the GDR.

In Czechoslovakia, earlier indications that it would become easier for so-called "illegal" emigrés to normalise their status and thus facilitate visits from relatives have not so far been borne out. Tourist visits to Western countries are increasingly limited for most Czechoslovaks by the rationing and inflated rate of foreign currency allowances.

In Romania there has been some improvement since the last report in the granting of applications for family meetings. Difficulties and delays at all stages of the exit process remain common. There has also been an improvement in the Romanian performance on bi-national marriages but sustained effort remains necessary to achieve this.

The performance in this area of Poland and Hungary has been good in most respects. The latest development in Hungary makes it possible for male applicants of military age to obtain exit permits. Hungarian tourism to and from Austria has grown rapidly following a visa abolition agreement. Bulgarian implementation has shown some improvement.


There has been no change in the general availability of British and other Western non-Communist newspapers and periodicals in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. The only British newspaper commonly available, but in small quantities, is the Morning Star, though a few of the larger tourist hotels have occasional copies of other papers. The major exception to this general rule is Poland, where small quantities of a relatively wide range of Western newspapers

and magazines are available at normal points of sale.

One major positive development has been the steady increase in the number of British books on sale to Soviet citizens. Altogether 20 bookshops in the Soviet Union now stock Western books, six of them in Moscow.

The GDR authorities continue to impose severe restrictions on the information activities of diplomatic missions. On more than one recent occasion schoolchildren who visited the British Embassy in East Berlin for material for a school project were detained and questioned by GDR police.

Working Conditions for Journalists

The harassment of individual foreign journalists in the Soviet Union has continued. The most important case concerning a journalist representing a British newspaper in the period under review involved direct and indirect attempts by the Soviet authorities to cut short the period of the correspondent's accreditation. The restrictions on the activities of foreign correspondents in the GDR introduced in April, together with the latest amendment to the Public Order Law, remain a considerable impediment to the free flow of information about events in the GDR. The facilities provided for British newspaper and television journalists visiting Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania and Poland have continued to improve. On the other hand the practice of the Czechoslovak authorities on the granting of visas to Western journalists has remained somewhat arbitrary.

Culture and Education

The implementation of the various bilateral cultural, educational and scientific exchange agreements has been generally satisfactory, though possibilities for co-operation remain considerably restricted in some countries. Late cancellation and postponement of some agreed visits from the Soviet Union and certain other countries is a continuing problem. In Romania the promotion of educational exchanges has been made more difficult by a new education law which prevents anyone with teaching duties, including most researchers, from leaving the country except in the summer vacation.


The negative trends in the implementation of the humanitarian provisions of the Final Act identified in this report are viewed with concern by the Government, who continue to believe that the full and balanced implementation of the Final Act is an essential and integral part of genuine détente in Europe. Whilst the Government recognise the importance of the development of the military aspects of security in the context of the Madrid meeting, they cannot stress too strongly that, unless signatory Governments are also prepared to fulfil the existing provisions of the Final Act, including its humanitarian dimension, the necessary minimum basis for confidence and trust on which such further measures depend cannot exist. The negative developments cited in this report are unlikely to improve the prospects for the Madrid review meeting in November 1980. The Government, in their regular contacts with other signatories of the Final Act between now and Madrid, will not hestitate to bring these shortcomings to the attention of those concerned in the hope of promoting that progress in implementation which will help ensure a successful outcome to the Madrid meeting.