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Council Of Europe And Csce

Volume 177: debated on Monday 23 July 1990

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6.25 am

Earlier this month, a meeting here in London of the heads of the NATO member states took stock of the historic changes that have taken place in central and eastern Europe. In its communique, it called for the establishment of structures which

"would reflect and encourage a more united continent, supporting security and stability within the strength of a shared faith in democracy, the right of the individual, and the peaceful resolution of disputes."
The statement went on to advocate that the conference on security and co-operation in Europe the CSCE—should be developed as a contribution to Europe's future security. It proposed that the summit in Paris in November should decide how the CSCE can he institutionalised to provide a forum for wider dialogue in a more united Europe, including a parliamentary body to be known as the assembly of Europe.

In a reply to me on Thursday 12 July, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said that the details of this assembly are to be negotiated during the preparatory committee in the run-up to the summit. The purpose of this debate is to support the suggestion that the existing parliamentary assembly of the Council of Europe is now, more than ever, the most appropriate body to become the new assembly of Europe.

It will be helpful to remind the House of the events that led to the historic and encouraging terms of the statement arising from the London NATO summit. In June last year, Poland held a general election. It was not a free election as we know it, as 65 per cent. of the seats of the lower house—the Sejm—were reserved for the communist Government coalition. But all the seats in the upper housemdash;the senate—were up for grabs, and 99 per cent. of them were won by Solidarity-sponsored non-communist candidates. It is little wonder, then, that President Jaruzelski was re-elected by just one vote after what was obviously a unique cliff-hanging experience for an eastern European communist leader. With hindsight, it is clear that he should have been counting himself fortunate, in view of the subsequent fate of all his fellow eastern European communist leaders. The last were President Ceausescu and his wife, and we all know what happened to them.

That election in Poland also led to the first non-communist Government in eastern Europe since the end of the second world war. It inspired a series of unpredictable events—symbolised perhaps most dramatically by the opening of the Berlin wall—which made last year the most significant of this century to date outside the war years. The consequences of 1989 will undoubtedly influence this entire decade and will continue to reverberate throughout the world—as they already have done in three countries that I have recently visited: Nicaragua, Namibia and Nepal. The map of Europe will be redrawn before the decade is out.

For the newly emerging democracies of central and eastern Europe, this already means some painful decisions and an equally painful period of readjustment from controlled economies to the free market. For the rest of us, it promises all the opportunities of a more stable world, more open markets and the peace dividend of disarmament. It also presents us with the greatest challenge since the end of the last war—to establish the institution best suited to accommodate this new order in Europe and to resolve the problems—political, economic and security, outstanding and new—peacefully. The challenge, in short, is to build that common European home to which President Gorbachev so frequently refers, and the sort of united states of Europe originally envisaged by Winston Churchill. It is the establishment of that institution which has now been added to the agenda for the November summit, as well as the ratification of a united Germany and an agreement on conventional forces in Europe.

Despite the fact that it has been in existence for 15 years, the CSCE, or the Helsinki process as it is more often known, is not widely known, especially across the Atlantic; nor is the contribution that it has made to the democratisation of Europe greatly appreciated. Yet the process brings together representatives of the Governments of all but one of the 33 states of Europe, together with those of the United States and Canada. The remaining country, Albania, has indicated its desire to join in due course. So it will be not just the Europe of De Gaulle, from the Atlantic to the Urals, but the Europe dramatically described at the recent Copenhagen conference by the veteran former Czech dissident who became Foreign Secretary during the Prague spring, Jiri Hajek, as the Europe that extends from Alaska to Kamchatka. That it is now proposed to strengthen and institutionalise the process shows its acceptance by the participating Governments, not least the United States and the Soviet Union.

It is a process which works and, compared with the disappointments of its initial years, it has succeeded beyond all realistic expectations.

When the Helsinki Final Act was signed in 1975 it was regarded as a great triumph for Soviet diplomacy. For more than 20 years, the Soviet Union had been advocating a Europewide agreement to confirm the post-war boundaries decided in Yalta, to make internationally agreed arrangements to secure those frontiers, and to encourage western trade and technology. It was one of the high points of detente.

However, at the insistence of the western alliance, and very much to its credit, the Act was required to include an additional third dimension over and above confidence-building measures and commercial, scientific and cultural co-operation. It was a commitment by all parties to the Act to human rights and fundamental freedoms. the interpretation of which would be the subject of regular review. With hindsight it became clear that these additional commitments to human rights were tolerated by the communists of eastern Europe only because of the economic co-operation with the west that the Act promised. But for the captive peoples of eastern Europe they raised the hope and expectation that here was a new authority to which they could appeal over the heads of their own Governments. Helsinki monitoring groups were established. Tragically, they and the entire Helsinki process were soon to become victims of the cold war.

The first review conference, in Belgrade in 1977, was barren, but the excuse was that it was held too soon after Helsinki to expect progress to be made. By the time of the second review conference, in Madrid in 1980, it appeared that the principles of the Helsinki declaration had been abandoned. Afghanistan had just been invaded, the Moscow Olympics were to be subjected to boycott and grain to the Soviet Union had been embargoed. Rearmament on both sides had already commenced and the Kremlin had activated its world peace movement to undermine NATO. Human rights dissidents in eastern Europe demanding the implementation of basket 3 were being locked up. In December 1981 the atmosphere in Madrid was further soured by the imposition of martial law in Poland.

The disappointment at the lack of progress led my right hon. and learned Friend the Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons, then Foreign Secretary, to tell the 10th anniversary meeting of the signing of the Helsinki Final Act in Helsinki:

"The Helsinki Act stands as a blueprint for the conduct of relations between nations and people. Yet so far we have scarcely begun to achieve even this objective … The tragic fact is that in some eastern states there has effectively been no movement at all on human rights."
However, St. George was already on the horizon. In March 1985 Mikhail Gorbachev became General Secretary of the Communist party of the Soviet Union. He was personally committed to reform as the only way for his country to achieve the economic strength with which one of his predecessors, Nikita Kruschev, boasted that he would bury the west.

Gorbachev was one of a generation of apparatchiks who entered service at the time of Kruschev's economic reforms. He saw them fail and saw the futility of intervention in Hungary and Czechoslovakia and of spending 25 per cent. of gross national product on defence. He saw the Kremlin run out of ideas and become moribund under Brezhnev with whom he saw the reforms of his mentor Andropov die.

The first fruit of the new situation arising from a Madrid proposal to convene a conference on confidence-building measures and disarmament in Europe, was the Stockholm document of 1986 which established for the first time the principle of challenge inspections as a kind of intrusive but reassuring verification. That development, together with the growing Soviet interest in conventional arms control, gave the third conference on security and co-operation in Europe in Vienna, beginning in November 1986, an encouraging start. It was agreed to replace the long-stalled mutual and balanced force reduction conventional arms control talks, independent of the CSCE, with a new set of talks under the CSCE. These were eventually to be the CFE—the conference on conventional forces in Europe.

The Vienna review conference concluded on 19 January last year with a document which considerably strengthened the human rights provision of the Act, which only Romania opposed. It established the mandates for two further sets of arms control negotiations and proposed a series of mini-conferences. They were a forum in London on information, a conference in Bonn on economic co-operation and a three-part conference in Paris, Copenhagen and Moscow on the human dimension. All but the Moscow conference have now taken place and they have all been regarded as successful. It is a measure of the reforms inspired by Gorbachev that even a majority of the human rights campaigners in the Soviet Union are now prepared for the 1991 conference to take place in Moscow, provided that the conditions on openness and access are met.

Today throughout Europe and, it is hoped, north America, the CSCE and the documentation and commitments that support it are genuinely regarded as the benchmark for the future by which to be judged a civilised member of the common European home. It was such a benchmark before the dramatic events of last year which led to the end of the ideological division of Europe. One can argue that the strengthened commitment to human rights, minority rights and the right to self-determination contained in the Vienna concluding document both sparked off and enabled the democratic revolution in central and eastern Europe to take place.

Credit must go to President Gorbachev for so courageously abandoning the lie of communism, and to those individual human rights campaigners such as Sakharov and Havel for equally courageously keeping the flame of freedom alive in their countries during the darkest days of their own persecution. Credit must also go to the Polish Pope whose election and triumphant return to his native country undoubtedly inspired the rise of Solidarity. But it should be said time and again, and should never be forgotten, that most of the credit must go to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and to President Reagan for standing firm in the defence of freedom, whatever the cost. That made the Kremlin realise that it could never compete with capitalism.

In whatever form the CSCE is to be strengthened and institutionalised, it is clear that it will face problems, many on a continental scale, which will require the good will and co-operation of all its members to resolve. It is as though the lifting of the iron curtain has opened a can of worms previously ignored in pursuit of winning the cold war. Democratisation of eastern and central Europe brings new problems by the day. The most immediate must be those arising from a united Germany: the eventual removal of the foreign troops of occupation; the confirmation of the Oder-Neisse line as the eastern border, which will undoubtedly disappoint the aspirations of the German minority in Silesia; and the growing wave of anti-semitism, most recently highlighted by Lord Jakobovits last week. History dictates that anti-semitism must never be ignored again. All those are Europe's problems, to be tackled by the CSCE.

The protection of minorities and the demands of nationalities will be the major issues facing Europe this decade. It is encouraging that last month's conference on the human dimension in Copenhagen introduced an outline charter of rights for national minorities, which constitute the major source of tension and terrorism in Europe today. In addition to minorities who are familiar to us in western Europe, for example, in Northern Ireland and northern Spain, we are becoming familiar with the problems of the Hungarian minorities in Romania, and the ethnic Turks in Bulgaria and with the growing list of demands to secede from the Soviet Union. Those are all legitimate issues for the CSCE.

May I take my hon. Friend back to a remark that he made about President Gorbachev? Like my hon. Friend, I am a member of the Council of Europe. I believe very much in all that it has done and could do in the future. He will recall that President Gorbachev came to the Council of Europe to make his historical speech about the common European home. Does he agree that it sums up the way in which the Council of Europe works that in one year we were addressed by a Polish Pope, by Lech Walesa, who was then leader of the oppressed Polish nation, and by President Gorbachev, who was then head of the nation which was oppressing the Polish people? I should like to think, and I hope that my hon. Friend will agree, that that was perhaps in no small way influential in events that have happened since.

As my hon. Friend will find out in the next minute or so, I intend to refer to some of those events. He rightly referred to the historic speech by President Gorbachev to the Council of Europe on 6 July last year in which he used, not for the first time, but most prominently, the phrase, "the common European home". His Foreign Secretary Eduard Shevardnadze has continually used that phrase in advocating that the Council of Europe should be the basis of the new proposed assembly of Europe, to which I shall refer later.

One of the major problems facing the strengthened CSCE this decade will be the final resolution of the consequences of the secret protocol of 1939. I refer to the right of self-determination of the Baltic states, the western Ukraine and Moldavia. Those are not matters for the Soviet Union alone to resolve. Although we in the west have taken an uncommitted line which seems, particularly to the Baits, contrary to the spirit of our refusal to recognise their enforced incorporation into the Soviet Union, ultimately, the clear demands of the Lithuanians, the Latvians and Estonians for the restoration of their independence, cannot be ignored by the rest of Europe.

If the negotiations with the Soviet Government that are about to commence fail, the newly strengthened CSCE will, if it chooses to ignore appeals from the Baltic states for self-determination, quickly become impotent—just as the League of Nations did over Ethiopia.

The problems created by the replacement of dictatorships by democracies and of centralised economies by the free market are also questions for the CSCE of the 35, not just for the Community of the Twelve. Baskets 2 and 3 clearly provide for that.

The new democracies seek our help and advice with the holding of free elections, the introduction of multiparty systems and parliamentary institutions, the establishment of a civil service to replace the nomenklatura, the rule of law, and the independence of the judiciary. They seek also our guidance on what we mean by human rights, the ending of subsidies, decontrol of prices, privatisation of industry, convertible currencies and technology transfer.

An enhanced CSCE could provide an umbrella of western help and expertise, including American technology and, with foresight, that of Japan. That could avoid stresses arising from competition for bilateral arrangements with any potentially damaging nationalist undertones.

We must also consider the immense Europeanwide problems of environmental pollution, many of which have arisen because of a complete lack of safety and control standards in the industries of the former centralised economies, to which my hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk, Central (Mr. Lord) referred in the previous debate.

Horrific problems remain following the Chernobyl disaster. Social problems such as drug addiction, crime, AIDS and poverty are common to every country, and should be the subject of co-ordinated action by all those within the CSCE.

In addition to common security, those are the issues that must be addressed by the Europe of the 1990s. I assume that they are very much in the minds of those advocating the development of the CSCE in the reconstruction of Europe. As they concern not just Governments or non-governmental organisations, but the citizens of every European country and of the United States of America and Canada, now must be the right time to introduce the democratic input that has so far been lacking, and which will make the CSCE more responsible to the people of Europe as represented by their Parliaments. That will be the aim of the new European assembly.

It may be said that the new European order will require a new institution uninhibited by the past, but that would be to ignore the experience and success of the four existing parliamentary assemblies, upon which it must be more sensible to build. Two of them are related to the defence of the west. They are the North Atlantic Assembly, representing the 16 member states of NATO, and the Western European Union, which represents the nine member states of the modified Brussels treaty—the European pillar of the Atlantic alliance.

It is clear from the summit that NATO will continue for the foreseeable future—certainly for as long as the Soviet Union remains the most powerful military force in Europe, and because considerable progress has yet to be made with arms control. Moreover, there may always be a role for such an alliance in responding to threats from, for example, the Mediterranean or the middle east.

In yesterday's summer Adjournment debate, my hon. Friend the Member for Hampstead and Highgate (Sir G. Finsberg), supported by my hon. Friend the Member for Poole (Mr. Ward), suggested an enlarged WEU, to include other NATO states in association with the remaining non-WEU member states of the CSCE. Such a body could perhaps constitute the parliamentary assembly for the first basket of Helsinki in respect of defence and security.

My hon. Friend the Member for Hampstead and Highgate pointed out that under existing treaties, neither of the two other parliamentary assemblies—the European Parliament and the Council of Europe—are permitted to take account of those other interests. His was an interesting idea, and I hope that it will be considered. At first sight, the directly elected European Parliament might have the more attractive credentials for it to be considered as the basis for the future assembly of Europe.

It is clear that the Community will be the principal European source of economic aid and co-operation to foster the recovery and reorganisation of the economies of central and eastern Europe, through the new bank for reconstruction and development. It is clear that appropriate association, followed by full membership of the Community, is the ambition of all of the newly emerging democracies of central and eastern Europe, but it is also clear that it will not be achieved in the foreseeable future.

The natural evolution of the European Free Trade Association member states to join the Community, following the formation of the European economic space that is currently being negotiated, will occur, but it is also clear that full economic and monetary union remains the Community's current priority with whatever is decided about political union, if it is decided at all, to follow, in which case there would be no room for the rest of Europe for the time being.

Whereas conventional wisdom a few years ago was that the Community and the European Parliament would overtake the Council of Europe in membership and responsibilities, today, the Council of Europe is accepted as the most appropriate, practical and credible institution for the single democratic space under the CSCE. That conclusion can be drawn on three grounds: its record of performance on baskets 2 and 3; the breakthrough that is being made in becoming representative of the emerging democracies; and the fact that it is already preparing the foundations for the missing parliamentary dimension for the CSCE, in a way that the European Parliament is not and cannot.

The Council's commitment to pluralist parliamentary democracy, the rule of law and human rights, which are the qualifications for full membership, represent the highest standards, based on long and proud experience. It inspires local government with these standards, through its standing conference of local and regional authorities in Europe. There has never been any suggestion of compromise on the qualifications for membership, as was demonstrated when the colonels seized power in Greece, and its membership of the Council of Europe was removed. Nor will there be for the newly emerging democracies that wish to join.

The convention of the Council of Europe on human rights, with its unique right of individual petition to the court for every citizen, and numerous other conventions, such as those on culture, the suppression of terrorism, transfrontier co-operation, animal welfare and the protection of wildlife, inspired and defined by the parliamentarians, form the basis of a truly European system of legislation. Many conventions have emerged as a result of public opinion, from the grassroots of Europe.

The competence of the Council of Europe on so many of the problems facing Europe today has been proved time and again by the succession of committee reports, with recommendations for policies to be adopted by member Governments on the approval of its Committee of Ministers. It is a formula which can equally apply to an assembly of Europe under the CSCE.

As the parliamentary forum for the Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development, which was originally inspired by the Marshall plan, the Council of Europe demonstrates its wide competence on economic and social policy, energy, development co-operation, international trade and much else besides, in its annual debate which includes parliamentarians from five other countries which are not members: Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand and the USA. It is no wonder that every European non-member state, except Albania, has expressed a wish to become associated with the Council of Europe.

With great foresight, a new special guest status, to which my hon. Friend the Member for Poole referred earlier, was created last year for the parliaments of Hungary, Poland, the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia, which have committed themselves to reform. Very soon, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria and perhaps Romania may be added. Full membership will follow as soon as they demonstrate that they qualify. Observers from the Council of Europe have followed all their recent elections.

What is happening in the Council of Europe today is the emergence of a confederated framework for the whole of Europe that threatens no one's sovereignty and lowers no democratic standards. It has a complete intergovernmental structure that can adapt its mechanisms to embrace all 35 states of the CSCE. By proposing a new associate status, with full voting rights, in its annual debate on the CSCE, the Council of Europe is already preparing for its rightful role as the CSCE's parliamentary dimension.

I thank my right hon. Friend the Minister and apologise to him for having brought him here so early this morning to reply to the debate. I hope that I have demonstrated to him that those who are preparing for the November summit need look no further than the Council of Europe, with its total interest in and commitment to the Helsinki process and the flexibility that it is now demonstrating to take account of the new order in Europe, as the basis for the new assembly of Europe.

I hope that my right hon. Friend will find attractive one final argument in its favour. I believe that my hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk, Central will bear me out. The British delegation has always been—and most certainly is today, ably led as it is by my hon. Friend the Member for Hampstead and Highgate (Sir G. Finsberg)—one of the most productive and influential of the 23 delegations. I assure my right hon. Friend that those of us who are privileged to be members of it will continue to pursue the consensus, without the need for international laws or intervention, that has made the CSCE the undoubted success that it has been, in the new assembly of Europe.

6.56 am

It is customary in these debates to congratulate the hon. Member who has been fortunate enough to secure the debate. My congratulations are slightly equivocal. The hon. Member for Bournemouth, East (Mr. Atkinson) spoke with eloquence and conviction. It has been an admirable opportunity for him to put forward his point of view and for the rest of us to comment on it and the serious issues involved. However, I wonder whether it makes common sense for the Parliament of the United Kingdom to sit throughout the night. Adult, mature men and women are debating matters of great consequence, with all the fatigue involved in sitting throughout the night. It is absurd and beyond all reason that the House should conduct its business in this way.

Quite apart from the inefficiency involved in debating these matters throughout the night, one has to consider the cost of doing so. I wonder at the expense each of our speeches will involve because of the vast number of people who are engaged in keeping the Palace of Westminster open while we deliberate. We ought to conduct our business in a better way. It does neither the House of Commons nor Parliament any good. The fact that we conduct our business in this way is a cause of derision. I hope that we shall make changes in our procedures so that matters of this importance are dealt with in a more appropriate fashion.

The hon. Member for Bournemouth, East was right, having declared an interest as a member of the parliamentary assembly of the Council of Europe, to argue that that assembly should form the basis for the proposed assembly of Europe, when the CSCE meets next November in Paris. That may appeal to a larger constituency than the small, elite number who are here at 6·58 am—not least because of the fact that it would be a cost-saving exercise.

I was interested in a number of the hon. Gentleman's points. For a number of years he and I have been interested in the question of human rights in eastern Europe. The hon. Gentleman is perfectly correct to pay tribute to Mr. Gorbachev, whose courage and vision have led to many of the changes that have radically altered the continent that we live in. He is also right to underline the role of those who campaigned for human rights for so many bleak years. They did not do so with the comfort and ease that we have, even though we have to endure middle-of-the-night debates. They lost their livelihoods and their lives in the campaign to produce what, in many parts of central and eastern Europe, and the Soviet Union, is now almost taken for granted.

A few years ago when the hon. Gentleman and I campaigned for the release of the Siberian seven in the American embassy in Moscow we would have treated with scepticism, if not incredulity, the idea that in a few years' time, not only would the Siberian seven be out, but demonstrations in the streets of Moscow would be regarded as the norm, rather than an amazing exception.

I parted company with the hon. Gentleman when he paid a magnanimous tribute to the Prime Minister for her role in those events. I concede that she played her part in the early stages of the process of change in Europe, perhaps by persuading President Reagan that there was a small niche in history available for him if he recognised that there was a wind of change, especially in the Soviet Union. But her influence in the latter stages has not been positive; in the past few months, at the NATO summit and elsewhere, it has been positively negative in its impact.

The world, and especially the continent of Europe, is currently faced with major challenges in moving towards tackling the structures that will take us beyond the blocs and the cold war. The transition from two frozen blocs to a more flexible, reasonable and co-operative structure in Europe is the challenge posed to all of us, whether in government or out of government. The consensual approach of the hon. Gentleman's speech was welcome as we all agree about the diagnosis and, in many ways, the prescription. The transition is all-important, so we must look at what institutions exist at present and, if necessary, build on them before we start looking to the creation of brand-new institutions for the future.

Our first object for the future must be to absorb the former Warsaw pact countries which sit in a limbo between NATO and the Soviet Union and have every right to be considered on their own merits, not simply as former communist satellites. Many of those countries are not just ex-communist countries, but anti-communist countries. One of today's ironies is that, with the exception of Turkey, the only Communist parties in existence in Europe are in the NATO countries; there are none left in the former Warsaw pact countries. Those former communist countries must be absorbed in a system where they will feel comforted and reassured.

Secondly, our objective must be to reassure the Soviet Union, which is going through a massive transformation in terms of both attitudes and its economy. Vast numbers of its troops and officers are being redeployed back within their own boundaries, virtually as refugees. Although the Soviet Union is magnanimous about the changes over which it has supervised, it is still twitchy and nervous about the way in which those changes have come so far and so fast.

Thirdly, Europe's objective must be to continue to involve the United States of America in its affairs in the longer term. Some people will wonder why we should involve the United States at this juncture and why it should have a role in Europe. That debate will embrace the United States of America as well as those of us in Europe.

There are several reasons why the Americans should remain involved in Europe and why it is in Europe's interest for them to do so. First, it is necessary that we maintain a European voice in the super-power dialogue and prevent any inclination to deals being done between the United States and Soviet Union. There is already a sign that President Bush is willing to do those deals with President Gorbachev because they are in the mutual interests of the super-powers. It is important that Europe retains a strong voice in that discussion, because the outcome of those debates and discussions is crucial.

Secondly, the two super-powers remain the major nuclear powers in the world. It is right that Europe should continue to have a voice in that nuclear component, because, although it is reduced in its impact, it still has a vital role to play in our survival.

Thirdly, our trading relations with America continue to be fragile and difficult, and at the Houston summit we saw that our trading relationship has not always been easy and may not necessarily be so in the future. A strategic relationship between Europe and the Americans is a mechanism by which we can continue to discuss trade as partners and not necessarily as adversaries.

Fourthly, for the foreseeable future we should continue to have input into American foreign policy, which will continue to be the most important foreign policy in the world. In the past, Europe's influence has been for the good, and we should hope to continue that into the future.

Those four reasons alone are good reasons why the Americans should continue to remain as players within Europe, but at a recent conference where several Soviet observers were present, one of the members said, "I would like to add a fifth reason to Mr. Robertson's four reasons—because the Soviet Union want the Americans still to play a part in Europe as well." That is becoming all the more apparent.

Those are selfish reasons why the Americans should stay in Europe, but there are major reasons why, for American purposes, they should continue to do so. The principal reason is that since the second world war the potential for problems and for trouble in Europe, especially trouble that could spill into the global environment, has remained in the European continent, and keeping plugged into that is all-important. In the relationship between the super-powers, Europe remains the main focus of activity. Congress representatives should bear that in mind as they go through the difficult decisions that they will have to take in the near future on their relationship at a global level and their participation within the European continent.

In the context of those objectives, the CSCE has an essential role to play. It alone of all the institutions that have been created—it is a pretty fragile institution; as one of my colleagues said recently, it has not even a telephone number—has a genuine track record of achievement between east and west. As the hon. Member for Bournemouth, East made plain, the Helsinki Final Act was an achievement in one of the worst periods of the cold war because it moved dialogue and debate on to more sensible subjects.

The CSCE has a role in conflict containment—we may as well face up to the fact that tensions within Europe may lead to conflict—and in testing new structures which we hope will be imaginatively produced for the future, given the nature of the goodwill that is emanating from east and west in Europe.

In the short term, NATO will continue to exist. It has a major role to play and is an organisation of some substance. The London declaration showed that it is capable of adapting to a new and changing military relationship in Europe. Because it is a robust body, it must form the foundation of the new relationship within Europe. The CSCE has the major role to play in bridging the divide between the Soviet Union and the NATO countries and linking the countries in the middle that do not subscribe to the views of either.

I join in the note of optimism struck by the hon. Member for Bournemouth, East. The changes in the past year go beyond what many of us involved would have predicted. They have thrown up difficulties. Sometimes we become obsessed with those difficulties rather than recognising the achievements. There is still a considerable case for optimism. If politicians in the east and west are willing to recognise the power of those changes, to consolidate that optimism and to look at the organisations that we already have, a bright future is available for our generation and future generations.

It is important to build on our achievements. A powerful contribution has been made in this debate. I look forward to continuing the debate at a more appropriate time, because Parliament has a vital contribution to make.

7.11 am

The hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. Robertson) commented on the eccentricity of our proceedings—a point on which anyone who, like me, proceeds about his day's business from this place to a Department will sympathise. Nothing in what the hon. Gentleman said should detract from the fact that my hon. Friend the Member for Bournemouth, East (Mr. Atkinson), ably supported by my hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk, Central (Mr. Lord), made an excellent speech. He gave the history of the CSCE, which, although it was not heard by the audience that it deserved, will read well. It will be a useful contribution to the continuing debates on these subjects. So complete was that telling of history that I shall not attempt to add to it.

I agree that what in retrospect, in a childish way, the Soviet Union thought was a great diplomatic triumph turned out to be one of the most curious manoeuvres in terms of the long-term moves of the old Stalinists. It gave both sides of the House and people throughout the free world the right to monitor human rights in the Soviet Union. Hundreds of thousands of people have been the beneficiaries. I do not think that Mr. Brezhnev and his colleagues originally expected that to happen.

The most noted group consisted of the Soviet Jews, whose rights to emigrate are now more or less established. Many other individuals and categories have benefited from the standing ground that was provided and from what my hon. Friend the Member for Bournemouth, East described as basket 3 of the CSCE. We are all able to monitor human rights in the Soviet bloc. The CSCE gave a standing ground for the monitoring groups—often consisting of very brave people—within those countries to work with us and to establish something like a rule of law throughout the 35 countries. My hon. Friend mentioned some of the great heroes, whose names have become famous. He was right to say that the standing ground provided by the CSCE enabled them to have a legitimate stage on which to play.

The CSCE is a remarkable institution, in that it has shown itself to be capable not only of carrying out its original tasks but of developing. It is no accident that it is now central to the discussions about how to transform relations between the former blocs in the next period. It is, after all, the only organisation—apart from the United Nations itself—that contains all the principal players: above all, it contains the United States and Canada, as well as the Soviet Union and the countries of Europe proper.

It is no surprise, therefore, that the next steps have been taken within the focus of the CSCE. I commend to hon. Members the two declarations to which my hon. Friend referred, which have followed from the last two CSCE specialist meetings. At the Bonn economic meeting, for the first time, we encountered a commitment—running through all the countries involved—to pluralist economics and the place of the market in economics. I am sure that the hon. Member for Hamilton welcomes that, as it enables him to explain to some on the left of his party that their aspirations—always futile—would now probably cause Britain to have to retire from the CSCE, as Romania used to.

Taken together with the human rights, rule of law and democracy conclusions of the Copenhagen meeting, the Bonn meeting provides what most of us would describe as an agenda for civilised and free societies. Certainly it provides clear conditions for membership of the club, and that—as the hon. Member for Hamilton pointed out—is one of the values of the whole exercise: it provides a background against which we can make rational and sensible decisions about, for example, economic aid and contacts.

The whole merit of the CSCE process is that it has not been a formal legal process; it has been consensual, and it has had political force behind it. In a sense, the weapon used to exert pressure has been shame: if countries did not—could not—meet their obligations, they were in the dock, and had to face their own inability, at subsequent meetings, to justify their behaviour.

The Council of Europe—of whose parliamentary assembly my hon. Friend is a distinguished member—proceeded by means of almost exactly the opposite method. When the European convention on the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms was established—I am proud to say that the United Kingdom was a founder member, ratifying it on 8 May 1951—it laid down something much more closely binding. It was a real convention. As my hon. Friend rightly said, if a country failed to maintain its standards it was expelled—and there have been instances. The convention has also played an extremely honourable and important role in the maintenance of human rights throughout our membership of the Council of Europe.

Given that, as my hon. Friend pointed out, the NATO countries now propose the addition of a democratic element to the CSCE process, how are the various strands to be brought together? We welcomed the suggestion in the London NATO declaration, which my hon. Friend mentioned—it has not yet been finalised, but it is none the less a useful suggestion—that the CSCE parliamentary body which is now proposed, to be called the assembly of Europe, should be based on the existing parliamentary assembly of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg; including, of course, additional members to cover the CSCE member states.

My belief—I think that my hon. Friend will share my view—is that it is unlikely that all the members of the CSCE 35 could join the Council of Europe. There are several reasons for that. The word "Europe" is beginning to become more a term of social significance than geographical significance because already the common European home includes large areas that we used to call America or Asia. There are also constitutional difficulties for some countries, perhaps above all for the United States. I do not believe that the United States Congress would ever consign the degree of external control that would be implied by signing the European convention on human rights in addition to the United States constitution. I may be wrong, but I think that that is unlikely.

Equally—we hope this will change in the decades ahead—I do not think that anyone would argue that the Soviet Union yet meets the criteria for joining, although, in some respects, it is moving in that direction. It may, as in the cultural convention, have a role to play. That is now under discussion. As the hon. Member for Hamilton said, unless the criteria were watered down, which would vitiate the purpose of the enterprise, I do not think that the Soviet Union could join ahead of the completion of the crucial business of its reassurance, involvement and integration in the wider world.

How do we bring the two together? There is a precedent in the way in which the assembly of the Council of Europe deals with the affairs of the OECD. As I understand it, additional members are invited to attend from the countries not covered by the Council of Europe but represented in the OECD. That is not an exact analogy, but it provides a basis for saying that there is nothing inherently impossible about using the Council of Europe structure, with additional members, to provide the necessary parliamentary assembly for the CSCE process.

That must all be worked out in detail by the membership, but we think that the suggestion in the London NATO declaration was useful and should be followed up. The two bodies could be brought into beneficial contact.

The potential for conflict and competition was noticeable to me at the Lisbon meeting, which I had the privilege to attend. It was the first meeting to which eastern European members were invited. There was a certain amount of competition in the corridors and a certain nervousness that somehow there would be institutional conflict. It was also noticeable at the European Parliament where we heard a speech which mapped out a competitive role. That is unnecessary. As my hon. Friend the Member for Bournemouth, East said, that body, with its separate purpose, is not the right one in which to carry out the wider task. The Council of Europe is much more in the target area. As my hon. Friend said, it is already playing an integrative role in relation to the eastern and central European countries that are well on the way to meeting the full criteria for membership. That is the right way to bring them back into the mainstream of Europe, or, as my hon. Friend said, the confederation of a democratic and law-based Europe.

If we can use the prestige and experience of that assembly to provide the necessary democratic input into the CSCE, it would be economical financially and in terms of using experience and expertise in the management of such assemblies. That is a good suggestion and it will be followed up in the period ahead.

The hon. Member for Hamilton ranged wider than my hon. Friend the Member for Bournemouth, East in an interesting and positive speech about the way in which the CSCE reinforces the steps that we must take to reassure and integrate the Soviet Union and how the CSCE provides another forum in which the role of the United States in relation to wider European policy can be formally reinforced.

It was useful of the hon. Member for Hamilton to list the reasons why we need the United States in Europe. That is not a universal view on the Labour Benches, but it is a view which is becoming more widespread on the Opposition Front Bench.

That is perfectly true. It would benefit Labour policy if that policy were made in the way in which the hon. Member for Hamilton has made it today. He should make it alone. That would be very productive. However, it must mildly irritate the United States to have to listen to a steady stream of insults from the left of the Labour party while the leaders say the opposite.

The hon. Member for Hamilton was right to state that it is not simply our interests that are important. I believe that President Bush told President Mitterrand that the Americans must not sound like mercenaries for Europe because Europe will not spend enough on its own defence. That would be an unsustainable position in Congress.

We must show why it is in the interests of the United States that they should remain involved. That is certainly in our interests and that means giving the United States a reasonable say in the consultations and decision making in Europe. It involves reminding the Americans, if they need reminding, that they have enormous interests at stake in the maintenance of a stable Europe not just in commercial, industrial and investment terms, but in terms of the stability of the world's trading system of which the Americans are such an important part.

My hon. Friend the Member for Bournemouth, East has made a timely contribution to a wider debate about how to carry forward the rather extraordinary achievement of the CSCE. No one would have predicted in the early days that it would turn out to be the success that it has. The Brezhnevite people in the Soviet Union thought that it was a way of establishing the boundaries that Stalin had imposed on Europe. In fact, it has turned out to he one of the principal motors for dismantling the empire that Stalin created by force in eastern and central Europe. It leaves a procedure, by agreement and consent of course, for the alteration of those boundaries and it will be interesting to see whether that is ever taken up.

The CSCE has also become a principal motor for the protection of human rights. It is now the right forum and it needs to be institutionalised somewhat without going overboard with the creation of new structures. It should be institutionalised on the official side. The British Government have made several suggestions, including, for example, the establishment of a centre for the avoidance of conflict, and other suggestions will be discussed at the CSCE summit. I hope that that will produce a not too bureaucratic structure and an identity for the CSCE process. We cannot continue to call it a process for ever. It must become a natural organisation established somewhere.

As that organisation is established it will need a democratic forum to which to report and my hon. Friend the Member for Bournemouth, East made practical suggestions about how that might be carried forward on the basis of a wider membership, for that purpose, of the Council of Europe assembly of which he is such a distinguished member.