Palo Alto, California
``For 10 years, the Helsinki Accords have existed beautifully, we continue to have periodical review conferences, and the situation continues to degenerate in the Soviet Union.'' So says Vladimir Bukovsky, a founding member of the Soviet human rights movement in the 1960s. He subsequently spent 12 years in Soviet prisons, labor camps, and psychiatric hospitals before his release to the West in 1976.
The opening of a followup meeting of the Helsinki Accords in Vienna today again throws the spotlight on the plight of dissidents in the Soviet Union, one of the 35 states to sign the accords.
Although the Helsinki process is endorsed by the United States government, which signed the accords, the majority of Soviet ``Helsinki monitors'' exiled to the West are calling for the abrogation of the accords because, they argue, they have not brought progress in human rights.
The accords fall into three baskets: one on human rights and security in Europe; one on East-West cooperation in science, technology, trade, and environment; and one on cooperation in humanitarian fields (such as family reunification, freedom of travel, and cultural exchanges). In theory, the baskets are linked: Progress in one depends on progress in the others.
The following is a condensed version of an interview here with Mr. Bukovsky for the Monitor:
Do you think that the Helsinki Accords created a healthier environment for relations between East and West?
The Helsinki Accords have two positive elements which were important, provided somebody uses them. One is linkage, the statement that all three baskets are connected. As long as nobody is going to use this linkage, it does not exist.
The second positive element built into the agreement is that there would be periodical review conferences which would allow performance to be scrutinized and action taken.
These two aspects were a step forward, although the rest of the formula of the Helsinki Accords was a step backward. For example, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights speaks about the right of individuals to emigrate, while the Helsinki Accords underlines the right for families to be united. The heavy emphasis on reunification of families in the Helsinki Accords is a significant step backward compared with the previous agreement.