Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law

First Page



The ten principles enumerated in the Helsinki Final Act mark the beginning of a process that could improve relations among the signatory States. Such rapprochement would create a more favorable climate for fuller realization of human rights or values by every person living in their territories. In the other direction, Principles VI and VIII try to define the societal preconditions for amelioration of interstate relations. The term "progress" implies gradual development to be assessed at certain intervals. The assessment can hardly be unanimous; thus, the fact that government representatives in Belgrade parted without substantive agreement was not in itself a disaster. The process goes on through an exchange of views, sometimes acrimonious in nature.

The Principles themselves were not questioned in Belgrade. The short Concluding Document that resulted from this follow-up gathering, in fact, confirmed the Final Act in all respects. Better results can be expected from the next meeting in Madrid if human rights are considered too serious a matter to be used as trumps in an international political game. Together with Mme. Bastid, one should hope that tolerance among states will breed tolerance within states.

The provisions aimed at cooperation in humanitarian and related fields among European and other signatory States of the Helsinki Accord are of more immediate concern. They were intended to improve interstate relations as well as the atmosphere within states. They differ from the Principles to the extent that the signatory States agreed upon both a description of desired situations and preferred methods for attaining these goals, the latter being nonessential to the functioning of the political systems.