The Gerald R. Ford Presidential Digital Library

Helsinki Accords

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The origins of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) go back to 1954 when the Soviet Union first proposed a European security conference in the hopes of formalizing the political boundaries established in Eastern Europe following World War II. The United States and the other Western nations were reluctant to engage in such discussions during the 1950s and 1960s, since they thought it would strengthen the Soviet position and lead to an expansion of communism. With the advent of détente during the early 1970s, the Western leaders reconsidered their stance and began negotiations.

When Gerald R. Ford became President of the United States in August 1974, planning and negotiations for the CSCE were already well underway. Having recognized the need to improve political and economic tensions between Eastern and Western Europe, participating countries had begun negotiating an agreement in 1973. After two years of negotiations, known as the Helsinki Process, 35 nations signed the Helsinki Final Act at a summit meeting in Helsinki, Finland, in the summer of 1975.

The Helsinki Final Act, also known as the Helsinki Accords or the Helsinki Declaration, addressed a variety of issues grouped into four “baskets.” Basket I laid out agreements pertaining to security in
Europe and respect for national sovereignty, Basket II discussed economic and trade relations, Basket III focused on human rights and freedom of movement, and Basket IV detailed procedures for future CSCE meetings and implementation of the accords. Although not a treaty or a legally-binding agreement, the Helsinki Final Act constituted a statement of intent between the participating nations.

President Ford Addressing Del../egates during the Plenary Session of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) in Finlandia Hall in Helsinki, Finland, 8/1/1975
President Ford Addressing Delegates during the
Plenary Session of the Conference on
Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE)
in Finlandia Hall in Helsinki, Finland, 8/1/1975
(White House photograph A5755-35)

Participants in the CSCE and signers of the Helsinki Final Act included nearly all of the existing European countries at the time, except for Albania and Andorra, as well as Canada and the United States:

The Helsinki Final Act was initially unpopular and misunderstood in the West, due to concern over the concessions the agreement appeared to give to the Soviet Union. Critics of the accords expressed opposition to what was seen as the official recognition of Soviet domination over the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. However, the document also served as the basis for the creation of the civil rights organization Helsinki Watch, which monitored compliance of Basket III of the Helsinki Accords in Eastern Europe. Ultimately, the impact of the agreement led to the end of the cold war, including the reunification of Germany, independence for the Baltic states, and the peaceful dissolution of the Soviet Union.

In the days surrounding the CSCE meeting in Helsinki, President Ford, along with Mrs. Ford, Jack Ford, and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, visited West Germany, Poland, Romania, and Yugoslavia. For more information about this trip, please check out our European Trip resource page. You can also explore the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Foundation's Helsinki Agreement Flickr and the Ford Presidential Library's photo gallery for State Trips Abroad.

Prepared by Tulin Babbitt, Stacy Davis and Elizabeth Druga; December 2020.

Digitized Holdings Related to the Helsinki Accords

Background Documents - 1974:
Background Documents - 1975:
July 26, 1975 - President Ford Leaves for Europe:
July 27, 1975 - Bonn, West Germany:
July 28, 1975 - Bonn, Germany to Warsaw, Poland:
July 29, 1975 - Krakow, Poland to Helsinki, Finland:

July 30, 1975 - Helsinki, Finland:
July 31, 1975 - Helsinki, Finland:
August 1, 1975 - Helsinki, Finland:
August 2, 1975 - Helsinki, Finland to Bucharest, Romania:
August 3, 1975 - Bucharest, Romania to Belgrade, Yugoslavia:
August 4, 1975 - Belgrade, Yugoslavia:
Additional Documents - Reaction and Implementation of the Helsinki Accords: