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Masterpieces of History

Svetlana Savranskaya
Thomas Blanton
Vladislav Zubok


Document No. 73: Address by Mikhail Gorbachev to the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, July 6, 1989

Texte intégral

1This document may be seen as Gorbachev’s cri de coeur for Soviet integration into Europe and the strongest expression of his vision of the new Europe. When he charged Zagladin with preparing a draft in early February 1989 (see Document No. 44), he intended this speech to be the equivalent of his December 1988 United Nations address, but aimed at European audiences. In it he lays out the meaning and the intended structure of the “common European home,” repeatedly emphasizing that the Soviet Union belongs with the Western democratic community.

2Significantly, Gorbachev begins by quoting the French poet and novelist Victor Hugo, who in the 19th century predicted that “all the nations of the continent … will merge inseparably into a high-level society and form a European brotherhood.” The Soviet leader maintains this theme, using phrases such as “European unification” and “co-creation of all nations,” which go beyond the simple idea of integration. The speech further links the idea of an integrated Europe with the inadmissibility of the use of force and attempts to limit the sovereignty of states, a vision with wider meaning for the world as Europe should be “seeking to transform international relations in the spirit of humanism, equality and justice by setting an example for democracy and social achievements.” Importantly, the transformation of Europe is to be achieved on the basis of European common values and is intended to “make it possible to replace the traditional balance of forces with a balance of interests.”

3The common European home would be built on four main cornerstones: collective security—ruling out the very possibility of the use or threat of force; economic integration—“the emergence of a vast economic space from the Atlantic to the Urals;” protection of the environment; and humanitarianism—respect for human rights and a community based on laws.

4Gorbachev also calls for a summit of signatories of the 1975 Helsinki Accords and hopes to use that model to build a European Community of the 21st century. This summit was eventually held in Paris in November 1990 and produced the Charter of Paris for a New Europe. Gorbachev’s passionate dream of Europe was eventually overtaken by events in the heart of the continent—Poland had already had elections which brought about the defeat of the communists, and Hungary had begun its Roundtable negotiations leading to a multi-party system. But Germany had not yet moved toward unification, and thus the vision of a Europe without military blocs and borders still sounded quite realistic to its supporters.


5Esteemed President, Ladies and Gentlemen, I thank you for the invitation to take the floor here, one of the epicenters of European politics and European thought. We may assess this meeting as proof that the all-European process is a reality and that it is advancing.

6Now that the twentieth century is drawing to a close and the postwar period and the Cold War are becoming things of the past, the Europeans are beginning to face the unique opportunity of playing their role in building a new world, a role that is worthy of their history and their economic and intellectual potential. […]

7Victor Hugo said: “A day will come when you, France; you, Russia; you, Italy; you, Britain; and you, Germany—all of you, all nations of the continent will merge tightly, without losing your identities and your remarkable originality, into some higher society and form a European fraternity. […]—A day will come when markets, open to trade, and minds, open to ideas, will become the sole battlefields.”

8It is not enough now merely to state the interdependence and joint destinies of the European states. The idea of European unity should be collectively rethought in the process of the concerted endeavor by all nations—large, medium, and small. […]

9Social and political orders in one or another country have changed in the past and may change in the future. But this change is the exclusive affair of the people of that country and is their choice. Any interference in domestic affairs and any attempts to restrict the sovereignty of states—friends, allies, or any others—are inadmissible.

10Differences among states are not removable. They are, as I have already said on several occasions, even favorable—provided, of course, that the competition between the different types of society is directed toward creating better material and spiritual living conditions for all people. […]

11In the course of centuries Europe has made an indispensable contribution to world politics, economy, and culture, and to the development of the entire civilization. Its world historical role is universally recognized and praised.

12Let us not forget, however, that the curse of colonial slavery spread worldwide from Europe. Fascism was born here. The most devastating wars began here. Europe may take legitimate pride in its accomplishments, but it has far from paid all its debts to humankind. This is yet to be done. This is to be done by pressing for changes in international relations in the spirit of humanism, equality, and justice and by setting an example of democracy and social achievements in their own countries.

13The Helsinki process initiated this immense effort of world significance. Vienna and Stockholm have led it to fundamentally new frontiers. The documents adopted there are the most complete expression to date of the political culture and moral tradition of the European peoples.

14We all, participants in the European process, are yet to use as fully as possible the prerequisites created by our common effort. This aim is served by our idea of the common European home.

15Our idea of the common European home was born of the comprehension of new realities and the understanding of the fact that the linear continuation of the movement along which intra-European relations developed up to the last quarter of the twentieth century no longer matches these realities.

16The idea is connected with our domestic economic and political restructuring, which was in need of new relationships primarily in that part of the world to which we, the Soviet Union, belong and with which we had been connected most of all for centuries.

17We also took into account that the tremendous burden of armaments and the atmosphere of confrontation not only hindered the normal development of Europe, but at the same time prevented our country from joining in the European process economically, politically, and psychologically, and deformed our development.

18These were the motives from which we decided to revitalize our European policy, which in itself, incidentally, had always been of importance to us.

19Matters concerning both the architecture of a “common home” and methods for building it and even “furnishings” were touched upon during meetings with European leaders recently. Conversations with President François Mitterrand on this subject in Moscow and in Paris were also fruitful and rather wide-ranging.

20I do not claim today that I have a ready-made blueprint for such a “home.” Instead I shall speak of what, in my view, is the main point—namely, the need for a restructuring of the international order in Europe to bring to the fore all European values and make it possible to replace the traditional balance of forces with a balance of interests.

21But what does this involve? Let us first take security issues. […]

22The philosophy of the “common European home” concept rules out the probability of an armed clash and the very possibility of the use of force or the threat of force—alliance against alliance, inside the alliances, wherever. This philosophy suggests that a doctrine of restraint should take the place of the doctrine of deterrence. This is not just a play on words, but the logic of European development prompted by life itself. […]

23If security is the foundation of the common European home, multifarious cooperation is its superstructure.

24An intensive interstate dialogue—bilateral and multilateral—has become a sign of the new situation in Europe and the world in recent years. The range of agreements, treaties, and other accords has been considerably extended. Official consultations on diverse issues have become a feature of life.

25The first contacts have been formed between NATO and the Warsaw Treaty organization, the EC and the CMEA, not to mention many political and public organizations in both parts of Europe. […]

26The need for a second conference of the Helsinki type is becoming increasingly topical. It is time for the present generation of leaders of the European countries, the United States, and Canada, to discuss, apart from most pressing issues, how they visualize the subsequent stages in the movement toward the European community of the twenty-first century.

27As concerns the economic content of the European home, we consider the prospect for forming a vast economic space from the Atlantic to the Urals with a high degree of interdependence between its Eastern and Western parts as real, although not immediate.

28The Soviet Union’s transition to a more open economy is of fundamental importance in this sense. And not only for ourselves—for enhancing the efficiency of the national economy and meeting consumer requirements. This will enhance the interdependence of the economies of East and West and, consequently, have a salutary effect on the entire complex of European relations. […]

29We have no doubt that integrational processes in Western Europe are acquiring a new quality. We do not underestimate the likelihood of the emergence of a single European market in the coming years.

30The CMEA has also taken a course toward the formation of a joint market, although we lag far behind in this respect. The rate of internal transformations within the CMEA will in many respects determine what will undergo a more rapid development in the coming years—relationships between the CMEA and the EC as groupings or between individual socialist countries and the EC.

31It is quite possible that from time to time this or that form will come to the fore. It is important that they both should fit into the logic of the formation of an all-European economic zone.

32The next step in this process is perhaps a trade and economic agreement between our country and the EC. We also attach substantial importance to it from the viewpoint of all-European interests.

33Naturally, we by no means counterpose our contacts with the BC to contacts with other associations or states. EFTA countries are our good and long-standing partners.

34It would also be sensible perhaps to speak of the development of relations through CMEA and EFTA channels and to utilize this channel of multilateral cooperation in the building of a new Europe.

35A common European home will need to be kept ecologically clean. Life has taught us bitter lessons. Ecological hazards in Europe have long transcended national boundaries.

36To form a regional ecological security system is a matter of urgency. It is quite likely that the CSCE process will evolve most quickly in this really high-priority field.

37The first step could be to elaborate a long-term continental ecological program. […]

38The humanitarian content of the CSCE process is decisive.

39A world in which military arsenals would be cut but in which human rights would be violated cannot feel secure. We, for our part, have arrived at this conclusion finally and irrevocably.

40The decisions made at the Vienna meeting signify a genuine breakthrough in this sense. A whole program for joint action by European countries has been mapped out with provision for the most diverse measures. Mutual understanding was reached on many issues which until recently were a stumbling block in East-West relations.

41We are convinced that a reliable legal foundation should be furnished for the CSCE process. We visualize a common European home as a legal community, and we, for our part, have begun moving in that direction. […]

42Ladies and Gentlemen. Europeans can meet the challenges of the next century only by pooling their efforts.

43We are convinced that they need one Europe—peaceful and democratic—a Europe that preserves all of its diversity and abides by common humane ideals, a prospering Europe that extends a hand to the rest of the world. A Europe that confidently marches into the future. We see our own future in this Europe.

44Perestroika, which has as its goal the fundamental renewal of Soviet society, also predetermines our policy aimed at the development of Europe exactly in this direction. […]

45[Source: Vital Speeches of the Day; 9/15/1989, Vol. 55, Issue 23, pp. 706-711.]

© Central European University Press, 2010

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