HC Deb 19 January 1981 vol 997 cc23-7W
Viscount Cranborne

asked the Lord Privy Seal what progress was made in the implementation by the Union of Socialist Republics and Eastern European countries of the provisions of the Helsinki Final Act during the last six months.

Mr. Blaker

The weeks before the opening of the preparatory meeting in Madrid were marked by a further serious decline in the respect shown by certain countries for the commitments entered into in the Helsinki Final Act.

On 20 August 1980, the Soviet Government resumed jamming of Western broadcasts in the Russian language. In October, the German Democratic Government increased its minimum exchange requirements: this has led to a drastic reduction in the number of Western visitors. Soviet troops remained in Afghanistan, and there has been no let-up in the intense campaign of repression within the Soviet Union against those who seek respect for basic human rights.

Basket I—"Security in Europe: Principles guiding relations between participating states; confidence building measures and certain aspects of security and disarmament."


The Soviet Union continues to show no sign of readiness to withdraw troops from Afghanistan or any interest in a settlement except on its own terms. On 20 November, a resolution expressing grave concern at the continuing foreign armed intervention in Afghanistan was passed in the United Nations General Assembly by an even larger majority of member States than in January.

The United Kingdom, together with most other Western, neutral and nonaligned participants, has made clear its view at Madrid that the Soviet invasion and occupation of Afghanistan is a grave breach of most, if not all, the ten Principles of the Final Act, to which the Soviet Government committed themselves at Helsinki. The USSR responded by claiming that Afghanistan was not the business of the Madrid meeting.

At times, the Soviet and other East European reactions to events in Poland have prompted doubts about the strength of their commitment to the Final Act Principles. At the European Council on 1–2 December, the Nine called on all signatory States to abide by those principles with regard to Poland and the Polish people and emphasised that any other attitude would have very serious consequences for the future of international relations in Europe and throughout the world.

Implementation of Principle VII—human rights and fundamental freedoms—showed no improvement in the period under review. In the Soviet Union, trials, arrests, commitals to mental hospitals and harassment of dissidents, religious believers and members of non-Russian minorities continued before and during the Madrid CSCE Review Conference.

More than 300 dissendents have been arrested and some 50 have emigrated since early 1979. Some 22 people have now been sentenced after joining one of the five regional Helsinki monitoring groups, the first of which was established in Moscow by Dr. Yuri Orlov in May 1976. Others are awaiting trial. In addition, two have been recently committed to mental hospitals.

The Moscow group is now reduced to five active members, four of whom signed an appeal to the Madrid conference. Others to have suffered in the past six months include Tatyana Velikanova, a veteran Moscow human rights activist, V. Stus, a Ukrainian Helsinki monitor, a fellow Ukrainian monitor Heyko Matusevich, A. Ogorodnikov, a founder-member of the unofficial Christian seminar, and Father G. Yakunin, a founder-member of the working commission to investigate the use of psychiatry for political purposes.

The rate of Jewish emigration has fallen sharply. The final figure for 1980 was in the region of 21,500, compared with a record 50,000 in 1979. New regulations requiring invitations from abroad to be from "close" relatives, and official harassment and obstruction, have given rise to hunger strikes by refused applicants for emigration.

Victor Brailovsky, a leading Jewish activist, who has been seeking to emigrate since 1972, was arrested on 13 November. Brailovsky, whose flat has been the regular meeting place for scientific seminars arranged for Jewish "refuseniks" was joint editor of a samizdat journal, "Jews in the USSR". The United Kingdom delegation raised this case and that of several other leading campaigners for human rights during the review of implementation at Madrid.

There is also evidence of increased harassment and persecution of Soviet Jews over the past few months. Seminar members have been intimidated and other groups in drama, history and religion have been proscribed. Children's classes in Hebrew and Jewish culture and civilisation have been forcibly closed.

There has been some progress in Poland in the implementation of some areas of the provisions of Basket I of the Final Act. Some political detainees have been released. The Church has been given increased access to the mass-media, and a new law on censorship is to be prepared for discussion.

Elsewhere in Eastern Europe there have been no major developments in the human rights field; in Romania, it is believed that some of the leaders of SLOMR, the Free Trade Union of Romanian Working Men, and Father Calcia, the dissident Orthodox priest, remain in prison. Confidence-building measures

The GDR gave notification of a major manoeuvre "Brotherhood in Arms" involving 40,000 troops in September. Hungary gave notification of a smaller manoeuvre "Dyna 80", involving 18,000 troops in August. Despite the Final Act recommendation that 21 day's notification of manoeuvres be given, only one day's notice was given of the latter, and on neither occasion were observers invited.

By comparison, the United Kingdom notified one exercise in this period, involving 25,000 troops—Exercise Spearpoint in September 1980. Observers were invited from all CSCE participants and 24 day's notice was given. Full briefing was provided for the observers and they were permitted close observation and opportunity to talk to both Commanders and men in the field.

Basket II—"Co-operation in the field of economics, of science and technology and of the environment".

There have been no major changes in the implementation record of the USSR and East European countries in this area. The main restriction on an expansion of East-West trade continues to be the shortage of hard currency in the Eastern countries. The consequent stress on counter-trade procedures continues to cause problems for some Western firms particularly the smaller ones. The delegations of the European Community have introduced a proposal at the Madrid conference asking that these problems be further studied within the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe.

In Czechoslovakia, three new decrees on customs regulations came into force in July, the main effect of which is to limit the movement in and out of the country of goods affected by the new regulations. A new "law on economic relations with foreign countries" which also became effective in July, enables some enterprises to negotiate direct with foreign firms in the conduct of certain forms of foreign trade.

Business contacts and facilities

Problems continue to exist in developing satisfactory contacts between sellers and end-users in Eastern Europe, particularly in the GDR and the Soviet Union. The situation is however still improving in Czechoslovakia and Bulgaria. There continues to be a general need for acceleration in the conduct of business negotiations and for improvements in procedures for accreditation of commercial representations.

Economic and commercial information

Publication of economic and commercial information has further deteriorated in the GDR and there has been no improvement in the performance of the USSR.

Basket III—"Co-operation in Humanitarian and Other Fields".

Human contacts

Soviet performance on family re-unification remains disappointing. Despite official representations, and the handing over of a list of outstanding cases, in Moscow in August, there has been virtually no reduction in the number of cases outstanding. It has been our recent experience that Soviet spouses of British subjects have generally been permitted to emigrate within a few months of marriage; but there has been at least one case where reunification following marriage has been prevented through the denial of a Soviet exit visa and one of denial of an entry visa to a British fiancé for marriage to take place.

A list of five outstanding United Kingdom-Romanian marriage cases was handed to the Romanian delegation at the Madrid meeting in December and received an initial sympathetic response. Elsewhere in Eastern Europe, the modest improvement noted in earlier reports has continued with long standing cases being satisfactorily resolved in Bulgaria, Hungary and the GDR.


In October the GDR increased the minimum compulsory hard currency exchange requirement for visitors from non-Socialist countries (most of whom come from the FRG and West Berlin). The basic rate was doubled and concessionary half rates within Eastern Berlin, together with exemptions for pensioners and school-children were withdrawn. As a result, visitor traffic from the FRG and West Berlin has declined by over 50 per cent.

In October, at the GDR's initiative, existing arrangements for passport and visa-free travel between the GDR and Poland by citizens of the two countries were amended. Travellers on private journeys are now required to possess an invitation processed by the police. This has drastically reduced cross-border traffic. Currency exchange regulations with the effects of limiting the frequency of tourist travel between Czechoslovakia and Poland have also been introduced.


The most notable development was the re-introduction by the Soviet authorities on 20 August of the jamming of certain Western broadcasts, which had not been jammed since September 1973. Those involved were the Russian-language transmissions of the BBC, Deutsche Welle and the Voice of America, whose broadcasts in Ukrainian, Armenian and other languages of Soviet nationalities are also jammed.

The timing suggested concern to prevent the Soviet population receiving accurate information on the events in Poland. An article in Pravda of 23 September sought to justify both the jamming of Radio Liberty and Radio Free Europe (never lifted) as well as the resumed jamming on the ground that Western radio stations engaged in subversive propaganda, contrary to the Helsinki agreements. Representations to the Soviet authorities by the United Kingdom have been rejected.

In Poland, the press has become relatively freer with the information and criticism which it provides on domestic events. There has, however, been no noticeable improvement in the availability of Western non-Communist newspapers either in Poland or elsewhere. Western Communist newspapers are generally available at the usual outlets. In the USSR, during the Olympic Games, special temporary arrangements were made to import an increased number of Western publications, but they were not available to the general public.

Improvements of working conditions for journalists

Regulations concerning foreign journalists and the public order legislation introduced by the GDR in 1979 still inhibit the activities of foreign correspondents. Correspondents from some Western countries continue to experience difficulty in obtaining applications to interview GDR citizens and there has been no significant lifting of the restrictions on the information activities of the British embassy.

Access to information for journalists in Poland remains relatively easy, though from time to time there has been confusion over arrangements for visiting Western journalists. Western correspondents based in the USSR continue to be attacked from time to time in the Soviet press.

Culture and education

Because of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the subsequent cancellation of planned visits and concert tours, no major exchanges have taken place with the Soviet Union. Routine exchanges of individuals, scholars and research workers have however continued.

Cultural exchange programmes with Eastern European countries continue as normal, although educational exchanges with Romania are virtually at a standstill at present. A new Anglo-Bulgarian cultural exchange programme was negotiated in Sofia in November and the Anglo-Polish Mixed Commission met in Warsaw in October for the first time to review the progress of the 1978 Anglo-Polish Cultural Convention.