The Rt. Hon. Sir John Major KG CH

Prime Minister of Great Britain and Northern Ireland 1990-1997

1992Prime Minister (1990-1997)

Mr Major’s speech to the CSCE in Finland – 10 July 1992

Below is the text of Mr Major’s speech made to the CSCE in Helsinki on Friday 10th July 1992.


Firstly, may I say on behalf of the European Community and its member states, a very warm thank you for the hospitality that all of us have received here in Finland. You, the government and the people of Finland have made us very welcome and we are very grateful for that.

Since its beginnings here in Helsinki, the CSCE has held out the prospect of freedom to the citizens of all of Europe, it was established, when the borders and attitudes of Europe were frozen by the Cold War. But now, now we have a very different Europe. People oppressed for decades now have a new voice, new aspirations.

But it does not in many ways seem as simple as it did just two years ago. National identities, national ambitions, have been rediscovered and with them so have old quarrels and old tensions. The Europe of the late 20th century looks suspiciously like the Europe of the early 20th century, more countries, more national identities, each jostling for position.

The liberation of so many people from communism is an immense gain for European civilisation, but we must not allow the new diversity to resemble the old chaos. We have institutions to help us manage the problems which our very diversity brings, and we must use those institutions, not least the CSCE itself.

The CSCE provides a framework in which difficult, historic rivalries can be tackled peacefully and reasonably, it set standards for international behaviour and for the democratic treatment of minorities. We look to the CSCE to play a crucial part in binding our new Europe together.

The Community and its member states support wholeheartedly the summit documents which we shall sign today. The documents represent a fundamental change for all of us to settle disputes peacefully. We subscribed to this principle in the Helsinki Final Act in 1975, when trouble threatens new means must be found to encourage or compel recourse to peaceful settlement.

The dissolution of Yugoslavia brings home to us the need for peaceful negotiation of this sort. All parties have contributed in their own way to the state of affairs that now exists. But the greater share of responsibility falls on the Serbian leadership.

Since violent conflict began last year, the European Community, acting under the remit of the CSCE, has done what it can to bring about a solution. The conference, the conference chaired by Lord Carrington, has established a framework for a settlement. The Presidency will strive to make progress, working in close cooperation with the United Nations.

Our monitor mission has rebuilt confidence in same of the worst afflicted areas. Some monitors have been killed and those responsible must be brought to account. The monitors who remain continue to risk their lives for European ideals, for CSCE principles and I pay very warm tribute to them.

As we said at the European Council in Lisbon on 29 June, the Community and its member states believe that the immediate dispatch of observers to Kosovo and to neighbouring states would contribute to the restoration of confidence. The conflict, the conflict in and around Nogorno-Karabakh is another tragedy which threatens wider instability. The European Community and its member states urge all parties to negotiate in good faith for a peaceful settlement, we call for the early convocation, after the discussions in Rome, of the Minsk peace conference, we need that because the issue cannot be resolved by force of arms, and the same holds true of the conflicts in Georgia and Moldova.

Drawing on the lessons of these crises, the Community and its member states have put forward proposals for resolving disputes and preventing conflicts. The CSCE should not be a watching by-stander, a hand-wringing on-looker to Europe’s quarrels. The CSCE must develop the means and the will to act before the fighting begins.

We welcome the important decision to establish a High Commissioner on national minorities; we welcome the agreement that the CSCE may request organisations such as NATO, the Western European Union and the European Community to help in peace-keeping. With these decisions the CSCE has come of age as a regional organisation, capable of acting in the framework of the UN Charter to maintain stability.

But the task of keeping peace begins at home. The essence of democracy is to debate issues peacefully and to accept decisions fairly reached. Free and fair elections, open government, respect for human rights are not a fleeting novelty, they are an integral part of what Europe means today.

The Community and its member states will press for action in the CSCE against any CSCE governments which commit clear, gross and uncorrected human rights violations, such governments cannot expect to benefit from Community assistance. Democratic principles and practices lie at the heart of the problem of minorities. As the events of recent months have shown, governments of states with national minorities on their territories must enable members of those minorities to participate freely and effectively in their country’s public life. And to achieve our ambitions for the CSCE, the CSCE must use its different institutions effectively. We welcome the provision in the summit documents for support for the Chairman in office in the exercise of his responsibilities and for decision-making in some circumstances by ad hoc groups of states.

The European Community was created to make war impossible among its members and to underpin democracy. It achieved that through close knit economic cooperation. You will not be surprised to hear therefore that 35 years on the Community is also committed to helping the new democracies in their historic transition to market economies and in tackling their formidable environmental problems. The relationship between thriving market economies and successful democracies is not an accidental relationship.

I would like, Mr Chairman, also to make a few brief remarks in my national capacity. It is one thing to proclaim democracy, it is quite another to maintain democracy. To this end, I want to promote six ways to make the CSCE more effective:

– first, the keynote for the future should be a Europe for individuals, not a Europe for officialdom or for politicians, but a Europe for all its individual citizens. An integral part of modern democracy is the right of the citizen to challenge the state, individuals need to know what their rights are, whether in the matter of law or of other essential services;

– secondly, we need thorough scrutiny of the record of states in putting Helsinki standards into practice, I am glad that the United Kingdom proposals in this area have been accepted;

– third, more effort in monitoring standards should serve to prevent conflict, that where this fails the CSCE has to face up to rising tensions, even outright conflict, and CSCE member states must be willing, not only to submit problems for investigation, but also to adopt and to implement the outcome, the CSCE should be ready- to assist at the early stages of ethnic rivalry. One feature of our new Europe is the fact that the dissolution of the former Soviet Union has left some 25 million Russian speakers living beyond the borders of the Russian federation. Other delicate and complex minority issues have emerged. The High Commissioner for Minorities can perform an historic task in helping all the states come to terms with these realities;

– fourth, we need a politically binding code of conduct on security relations between states, this should cover the subordination of armed forces to democratic government and the circumstances in which a state’s armed forces might support the civil power, the United Kingdom will work hard in this area;

– fifth, this summit will increase the range and depth of CSCE activities but this does not require a large new level of officialdom, the CSCE’ s administrative corps needs to remain small and the CSCE should not take on tasks tackled satisfactorily elsewhere. It can and it should call on the resources of existing bodies, it has done so today by accepting the principle of recourse to international organisations for peace-keeping;

– and sixth, the CSCE should appoint a Secretary General to assist the Chairman in office, such an office would provide continuity in our work and represent the CSCE internationally, adding to its authority.

At this summit, Mr Chairman, we have the new Europe assembled. It is a momentous occasion, the CSCE not only helped end the Cold War, it enabled it to end peacefully in a spirit of democracy and cooperation. If CSCE membership is only a formality then this organisation will be a sham. What counts is not what we have said; not even what we have signed, what counts truly is what we now do to give our commitments real meaning in the lives of the citizens in every part of the new Europe.